“within 100 years, many of our cities will become uninhabitable, submerged under oceans or deadly hot. Storms will become more violent. The gentle planet we’ve known will be no more.”
I have a Doctorate in anthropology from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, where my dissertation and post-doc research was on the chronology of occupation of the Bering Strait from 2500 BP to the present. I published papers on the effects of climate change on human population movements in Siberia, Alaska, Canada and Greenland. I did dendrochronological and dendroclimatological research on driftwood and archaeological wood from Siberia, St. Lawrence Island and the Alaska mainland. I studied tree ring research at the University of Arizona Tree-Ring Research Lab, and climate change at the University of Alaska Geophysical Institute.
I agree that many indigenous cultures have, in the past, “demonstrated [the] ability of the human species to adapt to changing conditions.”
I strongly disagree that “the extinction of the human species is a very real possibility,” with respect to climate variability. I strongly object to the statement “within 100 years, many of our cities will become uninhabitable, submerged under oceans or deadly hot. Storms will become more violent.”
There is simply no evidence to support these alarmist predictions.
Patton also cites Dahr Jamail’s book “When the Ice Melts,” as justification for these alarmist claims. I must point out that Dahr Jamail is not a climate scientist nor an anthropologist, nor a scientist of any sort. He is a journalist, one with a long record of unrealistically inflammatory rhetoric regarding what he calls “climate disruption,” which is in reality natural climate variability.
Yes, many glaciers are retreating, as are many glaciers advancing. That’s what glaciers do and have done for millennia, long before human civilizations developed. Climates around this planet (and all the other planets in the solar system) vary cyclically in tune with its variable travels around its star, and our planet’s own internal cycles of the closely coupled ocean/atmosphere system.
Does atmospheric CO2 and CH4 warm the planet? Yes, up to certain point. Does increased atmospheric CO2 result in increased global warming? No one knows, as this has never been tested. Does human produced atmospheric CO2 threaten runaway global warming? Not in the slightest.
Jamail and Stites’ dire “predictions” are not supported by climate science, not even by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which is a policy making organization, not a scientific research organization.
Should we “civilized” cultures change our ways to be in closer harmony with natural cycles? Of course. Human population growth coupled with cultures based on unlimited consumption cannot continue in a world of finite resources. We not only must change our ways, we most certainly will.
Humans may think we live in a world separate from Nature, but Nature functions otherwise. Humans are subject to the same ecological cycles as all other species. There’s no exit strategy. There’s no other planet to escape to. This is our only chance and either we figure out how to get it right, or Nature will haul us back into place in ways we make not like.
It’s the night before the New Year and all through the town, all the people are stirring, getting ready to celebrate New Year’s Eve. It’s an old custom, ingrained in our culture, seemingly as natural as night and day.
But why January 1st? What’s so special about this day that we celebrate it as a new beginning?
The easy answer is that the first month of the year is named after Janus, the two-faced Roman God who looks both forward into the future and backward to the past, just as all the pundits have been doing for the past week. Julius Caesar created a calendar with Janus’s month at the beginning, named after himself as the Julian Calendar, which was used from 45 BC until the 11th Century.
We don’t use the Julian calendar anymore, because it didn’t agree with the exact time it takes for the Earth to revolve around the sun, thus getting further and further out of date with the seasons as time wore on, as it often does. This was inconvenient and verily it troubled many of the new Enlightenment thinkers of the time.
So Pope Gregory started a new calendar in 1585, that inserted a leap year to keep the seasons and the calendar in sync. We use the Gregorian Calendar today, with January 1st as the first day.
But wait, why did my ancestors in the Olde Country start their year on March 25th, thus messing with the heads of future genealogists trying to pin down vital records of their distant 11th Great-Grandfather?
Well… as you might already know, pagans and other non-Christian folks counted their days, nights and years by the seasons and by celestial phenomena, which we retain in our culture as the Winter and Summer Solstice and the Spring and Fall Equinox. There were lots of other nature based holidays to celebrate as well, which helped a lot of medieval folks get through some pretty tough times.
Originally, the new year was celebrated either on the Winter Solstice, when daylight hours once again began to lengthen and the ascent from a long dark winter was begun. Others chose the Spring equinox as the time of renewal, and growth of things green and warm, a suitable occasion to start the new year.
When the Christian religion spread from Rome to the hinterlands, wily Christian theologians discovered it was more effective to co-opt the old pagan holidays and rename them to match the new belief than to try to do away with them altogether. Thus, the Winter Solstice became Christmas, to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on December 25, and the New Year was set to begin on March 25, marking the Annunciation, the announcement that Jesus Christ was born, starting the whole Christian year.
This went on for some 600 years, until, in 1752, ecclesiastical squabbles over the true date of Easter resulted in resetting the date of the Gregorian New Year back to the old Julian January 1st.
So here we are, poised on the cusp of a new, Gregorian, January 1st New Year!
Happy Christmas to everyone, with best wishes for family get togethers, warm sharing and an abundance of joy. In our high-tech and all too busy world, this is a time to enjoy the company of our scattered relatives, preferably in person but virtually when necessary.
Here is my favorite Christmas story, from my favorite author any time of the year.
By Edward Abbey, from Abbey’s Road
Scrooge was right. What I like best about Christmas in the desert is the conspicuous absence of Christmas. By late December the cone-nosed humbugs are gone and all the horny elf toads retired into their burrows for the season. When somebody asks me what I think of Christmas (nobody ever does), I reply, “Not much.” Easy to avoid it our here in the rocks.
about Ebeneezer Scrooge and Bobby Riggs, the twin patron saints of us
middle-aged cryptoliberals. Cryptoliberal? Well, sure, why not? I
have been called other names even worse. Misanthrope. Sexist.
Elitist. Crank. Barbarian. Anarcho-syndicalist. Wild conservative.
And my favorite, from a Maoist lady in New York–she called me a
creeping Fascist hyena. Quite true, so far as it goes (you can’t
please everybody), but they forget to add that I am a pig lover too.
I’m talking about is the one known also as a peccary or javelina, the
wild pig of the Arizona desert; not a true pig exactly, according to
zoologists, but a good approximation–a close relation. Close enough
for me, and the javelina, commonly defined as a “wild pig-like
animal,” is the best kind of pig. Though that definition, come
to think of it, is a shade too broad. Some of my best friends qualify
as wild pig-like animals without half trying. But that’s another
issue. The fault of the permissive social atmosphere, the Bill of
Rights, the general weakening of moral fibers everywhere you look.
my topic: Christmas and pigs. Have you ever stood alone under the
full moon in the prickly cholla-mesquite desert on the night before
Christmas and found yourself surrounded by a herd of hungry,
snuffling, anxiety-ridden javelinas? I have, and it’s a problematic
situation: some of those little fifty pound beasts carry tusks and
have been known to charge a full-grown man right up the hairy trunk
of a saguaro cactus. That’s the story I’ve been told by old-timers
In any case, this part is true: I was surrounded by javelinas while O’Ryan chased the Seven Sisters around the Big Bear and the moon looked kindly down. To say that I was nervous would have been an overexaggeration. Though unarmed and on foot, I was happy, at ease, and comfortably drunk.
herd of javelinas was aware of my presence. The mind of a wild pig is
unpredictable. These couldn’t make up their minds whether to run or
stay. After a while, since I made no move, they stayed. I could see
them plain in the bright moonshine: parody pigs with oversized heads
and undersized hams; each one bristly as a wire brush. They trotted
from bush to bush and cactus to cactus, anxious restive fellows, all
fits and starts, busy, busy, busy. I was accepted, but not welcome;
they hoped I wouldn’t stay. As I watched, I heard the sound of their
vigorous jaws at work–a crunching of jojoba nuts, the munching of
prickly pear. In all nature there’s no sound more pleasing than a
hungry animal at its feed. Ask any cattleman or farmboy.
Aravaipa Creek I heard the barking of a fox. An owl called. Everybody
out shopping for supper.
was a good strong odor in the air, the rank and racy musk of
half-alarmed javelinas. I like that smell, just as I enjoy the smell
(at a comfortable distance) of skunk out looking for trouble.
Associations: the wild tang of skunk brings back October nights,
raccoons and baying hounds, the big woods and foggy hills of Old
Pennsylvania. That smell means Arizona too; a border wolf, a desert
bighorn, a mountain lion crouched on a ledge above the deer path in
the chapparal. Good smells, good things, important, hard to find on
Speedway in Tucson or Central Avenue up in Phoenix.
then one of the larger javelinas, suffering from curiosity, would
come close to me, sniff, advance, and retreat, trying to figure out
exactly what this thing is that stands there like a bush that
breathes but smells like Jim Beam, moves a little. Suspicious; from
time to time, a ripple of panic passed through the herd like a wave
through water. They knew something was wrong, but didn’t know what.
One minute they’re on the point of exploding in all directions, pig
fashion. A minute later they forget the danger, start feeding again.
what happened? An angel came down from the stars in a long white robe
to give us a lecture on the meaning of Christmas? No. I’ll admit I
have a weakness for simple fact, even if it spoils the story. Maybe
that’s the main difference between a serious literary artist like me
and one of your ordinary sports columnists, say, who writes for the
newspaper. But I don’t want to make any harsh judgments here; this is
supposed to be the season of goodwill toward people. Sports
columnists too. And wild pigs.
hero Ebeneezer says, if the spirit of Christmas is more than humbug
then we’re obliged to extend it to all creatures great and small
including men, women, children, foreigners, Mexicans, coyotes,
scorpions Gila monsters, snakes, centipedes, millipedes, termites and
the wild pigs of the Arizona desert. That’s the reason the Arizona
Game and Fish Department puts off javelina season until January. Out
of a decent respect for that annual outburst of love and goodwill we
the herd of javelinas snorting around me, the truth is, nothing much
of anything happened. In fact, I got bored first, tired of simulating
a saguaro cactus. I picked up a couple of rocks, in case one of those
husky beasts with the tusks came at me, and tiptoed off through the
prickly pear. I did not wish to disturb my friends, but they took
alarm anyway, erupting in various directions. Would take them an hour
to reassemble. None charged me. Despite many meetings with javelinas,
I have yet to come eyeball to eyeball with one. Even though I’ve
charged them a few times, out of meanness, just to see them run.
were good and hungry, would I eat a javelina? Yes. I’d roast its head
in a pit of mesquite coals and scramble my eggs with its brains. I
have no quarrel with any man who kills one of God’s creatures in
order to feed his women and children and old folks. Nothing could be
more right and honorable, when the need is really there. I believe
humanity made a serious mistake when our ancestors gave up the
hunting and gathering life for agriculture and towns. That’s when
they invented the slave, the serf, the master, the commissar, the
bureaucrat, the capitalist, and the five-star general. Wasn’t it
farming made a murderer of Cain? Nothing but trouble and grief ever
since, with a few comforts thrown here and there, now and then, like
bourbon and ice cubes and free beer on the Fourth of July, mainly to
stretch out the misery.
aside, the javelinas and I parted company that moonlight night with
no hard feelings, I hope, on either part. They had the whole east
slope of Brandenburg Mountain to ramble over, and I had my cabin to
crawl back into, where I keep my bearskin and this neurotic
typewriter with a mind of its own. Christmas or no Christmas, it does
my chilly Calvinist heart a lot of good to know those javelinas are
still out there in the brush, pursuing happiness in their ancient
piglike manner. What would Arizona be without a Game and Fish
Department? Without a Sportsmen’s Association? Hard to say. I wonder.
But what would Arizona be without wild pigs? Why, no wonder at all.
Arizona would be another poor, puny, poverty-struck antheap like
California, not fit for man or his dog.
The Winter Solstice has long been my favorite seasonal celebration. It’s that ancestrally magical moment when the Earth pauses in its seasonal round, contemplates its equator for a moment, and moves in a new direction.
After months of steadily decreasing sunshine, even here at 37 degrees North latitude, the prospect of the return of the sun, increased warmth and budding Spring helps to wipe away the winter doldrums.
It’s a very real event, grounded in the Earth, the solar system and the Universe, a time of renewal and dedication to a new annual round.
Recently I’ve witnessed the increasing senseless sacrifice of innocent electrons as social media posts abound decrying the activities of Big Cyber (Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, etc., etc., etc.) as they respond to popular outcries of “Fake News!”, Russian influence on elections and other dastardly doings in cyberspace.
Let’s set a few things straight.
First of all cyberspace is not real. It’s an invention of human beings that only exists on computers, cell phones and other electronic devices. It only lives when we turn on those devices and choose to partake of the content thus delivered.
Secondly, The Internet, and all that therein lies, is available to everyone, not just liberals, Progressives, intellectuals, environmentalists, anarchists, terrorists, academics and Tea Party-ists. Everyone. Rich people, businesses and business people, governments, NGOs, non-profits, smart people and dumb people.
It’s kinda like a box of chocolates…
When we choose to partake of the Internet and its contents, we choose to expose ourselves to all that it contains, some of it to our liking and some of it not.
Thirdly, The Internet is global, beyond national borders, beyond cultural and societal boundaries, beyond language, beyond space, beyond time. What one may consider right and proper in one’s own cultural milieu, may turn out to be improper, abhorrent or even illegal in someone else’s.
All of these realities impose a certain onus on the part of Internet travelers to exercise a modicum of self-responsibility when interacting in Cyberspace. One cannot expect The Internet to respond to one’s expectations, cultural norms and personal sense of morality.
It’s a Zen thing. I am. The Internet is. I am not the Internet. The Internet is not me.
I go to Facebook occasionally, mostly to keep track of my younger relatives who display much of their life on this social medium. I don’t put my personal information on Facebook, so there’s nothing there for Facebookers to sell to others. I’ve turned off all of the features beloved of many Facebook acolytes, blocked advertisements, turned off apps, eschewed connections, isolated Facebook following in my browser, and generally put Facebook in a sealed box that only I can add to or take from. Same same for Google and Apple.
I use Firefox and Thunderbird for browser and email client, open source programs with plentiful security features. I use ad blocker and anti-tracker extensions so my surfing and download history is unrecorded and stays in my own control.
I don’t look to Facebook for news nor to choose which web sites I see and interact with. Same same for Google and Apple. I don’t store data in The Cloud, nor do I depend on Cloud based apps. I back up locally and keep my files to myself.
In other words, I take responsibility for my own cyber security and anonymity. I’m not concerned that Facebook and Google have deleted some accounts that don’t meet their specifications. They are corporations after all, not government entities. And there are a myriad of opportunities to access the exact same content in other Cyber-venues.
I am far more concerned with increasing trends in local, state and federal government entities toward secrecy and lack of transparency, and the influence of growth and development interests in fomenting public policies. Privacy is the right of individuals, not governments. More on this later.
The actions of private corporations do not pose a threat to democracy and personal liberty. We all have the power to choose whether we interact with corporations or not. Human beings in corporations have the power to choose whether or not to accept employment in corporations, or to continue when corporate activities offend their sense of propriety. No one forces us to bend to corporate bidding.
Freedom consists of freedom of choice and the intelligence to choose wisely for one’s own benefit. When we give others the power to choose for us, we abrogate our responsibilities to self-determination, self government and freedom.
“Global Warming of 1.5°C,” an IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty
Special Report SR15 (https://www.ipcc.ch/report/sr15/) recently released by the IPCC is a rehash of old policy conclusions and recommendations, repackaged to emphasize the projected effects of a 1.5°C increase in global average surface temperature over the 1850-1900 global average surface temperature.
SR15 states (A.1) “Human activities” have “caused approximately 1.0°C of global warming above pre-industrial levels”; (A.2) “Warming from anthropogenic emissions from the pre-industrial period to the present will persist for centuries to millennia“; (A.3) “Climate-related risks for natural and human systems are higher for global warming of 1.5°C than at present, but lower than at 2°C.”
The report projects: “increases in: mean temperature …, hot extremes …, heavy precipitation …, and drought and precipitation deficits …”. The report goes on to project decreased species loss and extinction on land, a slower rate of sea level rise, reduced increase in ocean temperature and pH fluctuation, compared to the effects of a 2°C increase in GASP. But then …
Climate-related risks to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human
security, and economic growth are projected to increase with global warming of
1.5°C and increase further with 2°C.
It seems clear that someone or someones in the IPCC hierarchy has/have decided that 2.0°C of Global Warming is insufficiently scary to prompt world leaders to toe the Global Warming line and get on the IPCC Sustainable Development bandwagon.
Choosing between 1.5°C and 2°C of acceptable warming increase is akin to deciding which deck chair to throw over the rail of the Titanic to keep it afloat. In reality, nothing humans can do or not do will significantly change the rate and “direction” of climate variation. Allow me to explain:
The entire concept of Global Warming, aka Anthropogenic Climate Change, and the latest aka “Climate Disruption,” is based on (at least) three assumptions:
1) Global Warming (calculated as Global Average Surface Temperature or GASP) equals Global Climate Change;
2) Human produced CO2 is the thermostat for all observed climate variation since the ill-defined beginning of the Industrial Revolution; and
3) Presently observed climate variation will continue indefinitely into the future at the same rate or faster.
Temperature is only one variable of climate. We go outside. It’s warm or it’s cold. It’s warmer or colder than it was yesterday and will be tomorrow. Last year was warmer or colder than this year. Alaska is colder than Southern California.
Global Average Surface Temperature (GASP) is derived from some of the temperature measurements from existing instruments around the planet, adding them up and dividing by the number or readings. Raw data are frequently manipulated by a variety of correction factors thought to balance the widely differing characteristics of instrument stations around the world. (This is, of course, incredibly simplified, but you get the idea.)
So-called “Global Climate” is then depicted as a graph, usually as a time series of GASP, usually converted to “temperature anomalies” from an arbitrarily selected time period, for example, + or – differences from the global average surface temperature between 1850-1900. The result is promoted as significant and meaningful, and all manner of dire troubles for humans and all other life are variously interpreted from these simple graphs.
What is ignored in these projections is that Global Average Surface Temperature is a meaningless calculation, and there is no global average climate to change.
In a 1964 published article (“The Problem of Deducing the Climate from Governing Equations,” Tellus 16 (1964), pp. 1-11), Edward Lorenz established that a highly complex adaptive systems such as weather does not converge to an average. In other words, weather variability is so complex that averaging the extremes produces a perception of “climate” that is meaningless in terms of predictability. Weather variability is the result of a complex system of interacting variables that cannot be predicted with any reliability beyond a day or two.
This reality is further complicated by arbitrary (or self-serving) choices of endpoints in comparisons of GASP trends. In the graphs above, start and end points of temperature anomalies, and the date range of the average to which they are compared, are chosen to emphasis a particular conclusion. The beginning points of the graphs are usually chosen as 1850, because that aligns with the almost universally held assumption that global warming and/or climate change began with human CO2 production as a result of the industrial production based on fossil fuels. This ignores the reality that today’s observed GASP increase began in the mid-1600s, not 1850, long before human CO2 emissions.
None of this matters to the IPCC, however, as it’s business is political policy recommendation rather than scientific theory confirmation. The IPCC produces projections of future risk assessment, not predictions of actual outcomes. That’s why their reports are couched in terms of scenario ranges rather than discrete events.
Even though weather and climate variability are nonlinear and therefore unpredictable other than in meaningless general terms, IPCC reports persist in deriving linear conclusions from the nonlinear data, as in A.1 through A.3 above. That’s the IPCC’s job, in support of the political and economic agendas that prompted the formation of the IPCC in the first place.
Global climate change consists of long term fluctuations in global weather patterns, such as the periodic change from from glacial to interglacial periods over the past several million years. Climate variability consists of shorter term fluctuations in global weather patterns within those larger cycles, such as the warming period we are experiencing now, coming out of the most recent cooling period of the Little Ice Age. This too shall pass as we make our way through the Holocene toward the next glacial period on the horizon.
Will the alarming prognostications of the IPCC come to pass? Will reducing our “carbon footprint” stop Global Warming or even change climate variation and climate change? No one knows.
What we can know is that we cannot predict what weather will be like in the future, so we would be well advised to organize ourselves and our material culture in ways that are more resilient in the face of inevitable change.
“Eco-socialism, green socialism or socialist ecology is an ideology merging aspects of socialism with that of green politics, ecology and alter-globalization or anti-globalization. Eco-socialists generally believe that the expansion of the capitalist system is the cause of social exclusion, poverty, war and environmental degradation through globalization and imperialism, under the supervision of repressive states and transnational structures.
“Eco-socialists advocate dismantling capitalism, focusing on common ownership of the means of production by freely associated producers, and restoring the commons.”
Delving into ecosocialism is a lot like stepping into a steaming swamp where you can’t see the firm bottom. It’s chief proponents, Ian Angus in Canada, Derek Wall in the UK and the late Joel Kovel in the United States, have written voluminously on the subject, as it has evolved over the past 17 years. Ian Angus’s Climate and Capitalism website is the best place to explore the history and current development of ecosocialism.
Why do I exclude ecosocialism from my Way of Nature?
Ecosocialism began as a breakaway political philosophy from standard, everyday Marxism, an admirable attempt to align classic socialist economics with modern understandings of the effects of human social systems on the natural world. Unfortunately, because of its basic Marxist underpinnings, it falls short in two important respects: human population, and human consumption of natural resources.
Adherents of ecosocialism are unswervingly opposed to any form of population stabilization or control. This roadblock to thought and rational analysis arises from Marxist focus on economic justice. Ecosocialists hold than any form of population control would preferentially affect people of color, people in poverty, people of the global south. This refusal to consider the detrimental effects of increasing population is extended to immigration as well, holding that people should be free to move from place to place at will.
One of the basic Marxist assumptions of socialism is that with the elimination of capitalism, production will be for use and not for profit, and therefore increased technological production would create enough to satisfy everyone’s needs, equally in every part of the human world. In such a “post-scarcity” world, human consumption of natural resources would decline and reduce impacts on the natural world.
I = P x A x T – Impact on the nonhuman world is a function of affluence and technology, multiplied by population.
While it may be true that a socialist economy of use value eliminating production for profit value would reduce per capita production and consumption (this has never been demonstrated historically), this positive result would be held hostage to a growing population, which would overwhelm any gains through a reduction in production.
Stabilizing population growth, even unto the point of reducing human population globally, need not affect any particular population over any other. An ecosystem-based analysis of local human population pressures could be used to stabilize global population by reducing population levels in areas of high impact and stabilizing populations in areas of lower impact. Methods of such population control would be implemented based on local cultures and economies.
Lifting restrictions on immigration ignores the realities of local ecosystems and carrying capacities. If humans are free to drift from place to place, in response to population and social pressures, local ecosystems will quickly degrade in areas where the human drift accumulates. While restrictions on immigration by arbitrarily designated state boundaries might not be desirable from a social standpoint, an ecosystem-based analysis of human population pressures must be used to avoid undesirable negative impacts on the local ecosystem. If social relations in a particular region are undesirable, humans should solve their problems in place, rather than exporting them to other ecosystems that may be less capable of withstanding increased human impacts.
In the end, despite its optimistic appellation, ecosocialism is yet another anthropocentric philosophy that begins and ends with human benefit as its primary concern and only tangentially addresses the detrimental effects of human growth and technology on the non-human world.
Socialism, even ecosocialism, offers no inherent alternatives to capitalism with regard to human consumption and destruction of natural habitats.