Depressive alarmism

I wouldn’t say that I’ve had my head in the sand in recent months, but I will admit that I’ve been less actively seeking to educate myself about the triple whammy threat of climate change, overpopulation and peak everything.

My new ‘partial ostrich’ strategy has, however, not been reducing the impact of the Black Dog on my life. Upon returning to my more usual hunting grounds, I have found that evidence has continued to firm up that we as a species (one that I maintain should be redesignated homo fatuus brutus) are not just heading for a precipice: we are all complicit in actively getting there as fast as we can.

When I was growing up, the schools I attended, and my early places of work, used to hold regular fire alarm drills. I haven’t moved that far from where I was born, and yet such drills are no longer usual practise in my neck of the woods. Perhaps the reason is that infrastructure has improved to the point that such drills are no longer necessary; I wonder, though, whether it might not be a symptom of complacency.

Is it ‘alarmism’ to shout “FIRE!” when smoke and flames rage through a building? I don’t think so. I’ve never, thankfully, been in that situation, but, if I were, were I to escape alive, I believe I would thank anyone who had raised the alarm.

And yet, just as the word ‘sustainable’ has been hijacked into the oxymoronic term ‘sustainable growth’, the word ‘alarmism’ has been similarly perverted such that when attempting to highlight various home truths one constantly flirts with social taboos and risks having someone point the alarmist finger. For instance: pregnancy, childbirth, becoming a parent/ grandparent/ great-(!)grandparent: these are causes for celebration, while infertility and the declining birth rate are ‘problems’. One butts up against all sorts of knee-jerk reactions, instilled over countless generations, if one dares try to suggest that perhaps we should be encouraging adoption of those unwanted mouths already alive on this planet instead of celebrating the addition of still more. The English language itself is in opposition: antonyms of ‘celebrate’ include ‘deny’, ‘ignore’, ‘criticize’, ‘denounce’, ‘humiliate’… and: ‘be sad’.

Advice for dealing with the Black Dog includes embracing one’s problems. Quite frankly, I don’t see how that helps here. When constantly looking at your own culture and saying “OMG man that’s crazy,” your culture will look back at you and say you are crazy. A constant drip, drip, drip can be torture — and it is very, very, very hard to constantly resist.

Turn back, O Man: forswear thy foolish ways.

Earth might be fair and all men glad and wise.
age after age their tragic empires rise,
built while they dream, and in that dreaming weep:
would man but wake from out his haunted sleep,
earth might be fair and all men glad and wise.

If you read nothing else today, I strongly recommend that you read The Fateful Collision – Floods, Catastrophe And Climate Denial, which is what prompted me to write this. Media Lens suggests offering the 16-minute speech by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse entitled ‘Time to Wake Up: The Climate Denial Beast’ (which I think is a rather odd title… because it’s the sleeper that must awaken, not the beast). I note that this speech was published on YouTube on 4 February 2014, but has yet to breach a measly 6,000 views. That small number, to me, speaks volumes.

‘I have described Congress as surrounded by a barricade of lies. Today, I’ll be more specific. There isn’t just lying going on about climate change; there is a whole, carefully built apparatus of lies. This apparatus is big and artfully constructed: phoney-baloney organisations designed to look and sound like they’re real, messages honed by public relations experts to sound like they’re truthful, payrolled scientists whom polluters can trot out when they need them. And the whole thing big and complicated enough that when you see its parts you could be fooled into thinking that it’s not all the same beast. But it is. Just like the mythological Hydra – many heads, same beast.’

About pendantry

Phlyarologist (part-time) and pendant. Campaigner for action against anthropogenic global warming (AGW) and injustice in all its forms. Humanist, atheist, notoftenpist. Wannabe poet, writer and astronaut.
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17 Responses to Depressive alarmism

  1. penpusherpen says:

    I am a part time depressonist, Pendantry, in that I escape sometimes, into poetry mainly, but when I concentrate hard, I get this overwhelming feeling of … lacklustreness, I try to understand the ways of Mankind, and it seems being human doesn’t help, at all, the warning signs are everywhere, we’re overpopulating, at an alarming rate, ( should we be a lower species, we’d be culled for our own good) yet we go on ‘begetting’ regardless what it’s doing to this Planet. the knock on effect of this, plus the raping of the Planet of all resourses, makes me feel physically sick, yet I want comfort, I want to live, and yet…surely there is a cost too far? There seem to me so many Beasts with no Hero to combat the many ill of todays society and it’s search for knowledge at any cost, … even making a microwave oven of the very home we rely on.. We seem to have many weapons of destruction at our disposal, shall we choose our weapons wisely or just plump for the nearest at hand? The many headed Hydra was a Myth, are we ‘mything’ the whole point of existance? xPenx


    • pendantry says:

      You may not be far wrong.

      Current research into quantum physics suggests that what we think of as ‘reality’ may all be an illusion. All that I perceive, all that anyone perceives, as being ‘out there’ in ‘the universe’ is interpretation of digital (as in ‘discrete packets of’) data by our consciousness (whatever that is).

      I believe I’m sitting at my desk typing these words, but I have no way to prove that it’s not just a video game, and that my real body is lying somewhere else.

      The Hydra of myth might be a foreshadowing of the multiple hydrae we now face. We need a Hero to slay them — or at least tame them…


      • penpusherpen says:

        Ah, the definition of reality, I read a series of books where we were all (humanity) plugged into a mainframe, our energy and dreams powering said mechanism, can’t remember the premise, read so much science fiction they’ve almost jelled together. BUT I have this theory ( 😉 but then don’t we all) where Earth is a stopping off point the whole thing constructed as a Zoo, we were observed, and left to live out our lives, with attendants checking every now and again, but …something untoward happened, unforseen, (such is the way with higher beings I suppose, maybe a flaw? ) and no-ones checked recently, we’ve run amock, been left to our own devices far too long and … Wait a minute…is this a book I’ve read? . 🙂 xx


        • pendantry says:

          Love that second plot, pen. If it’s not already a book, it’s a yarn crying out to be written. The zoo idea reminds me of a short story I once read, long ago: ‘The Ruum‘.

          The first sounds like The Matrix.


          • penpusherpen says:

            Phew, took the trip to Ruum, thank goodness JIm lost weight, tho’ not surprising after that hair-raising chase sequence. (aint the mind so much better at imagining stuff?) Rootin’ tootin’ blow em up and shooting stuff!! and talking of such stuff, the 60 second Matrix was a blast too!! Grrreat LI’l sequence, 🙂 …. xx
            (todays word seems to be ‘stuff’ … just saying it aloud makes me wonder …. who said stuff first? and who understood what he/she meant? AND . thinking such suff makes my brian hurt, .. I think I’ll have another coffee.. xx)


  2. John Crapper says:

    I appreciated this post. I watched the Black Dog Video and as you suggested read the Media Lens article. It is hard to maintain optimism when dealing with this stuff.

    I recently participated in a blogathon to help generate the submission of public comments regarding KXL. I ended up being the point person for the whole thing. Sheldon Whitehouse, Barbara Boxer and Bill McKibben posted with our blogathon. I had the priviledge of introducing Bill as the final poster. Here is the link: If you’re not familiar with Daily KOS I invite you to do so. My blogging name is John Crapper just like here. The group that did this blogathon is called Climate Change SOS. I’m one of the administrators of the group. Come join us!


    • pendantry says:

      Kudos to Your Esteemed Holiness — I followed your link and can see straight away that you’re clearly kicking up a stink in the US 🙂 Thanks for your invitation to join Climate Change SOS, but I have to be honest and admit that I personally already feel stretched beyond capacity. Of course, this shit isn’t all my doing, and I can’t speak for other readers here. I assume your invitation wasn’t just addressed to me.

      Incidentally, I spent a little while on ‘Daily Kos’ looking for an ‘about’ link, or an explanation of what ‘Kos’ is, and could find neither (it is early in the day, yet). The only Kos I know is an island in Greece (though for all I know the Greeks may have sold it to one of the planet’s plutocrats to get them out of the financial crap that… the planet’s plutocrats have put them in… but I digress). No, wait, I see it now. Something about Kos Media, LLC. I guess they’re some of the good guys? Never heard of them on this side of the Pond, I have to admit. Clearly US-centric… and I see they like to consider themselves “the premier online political community”? I smell bullcrap. I know that the odds are stacked against the good guys, but it’s such a shame we feel obliged to fight fire with fire.


      • John Crapper says:

        I follow your blog yet don’t get notified when you reply. Guess I need to check the box about notifying via email. No my invite was for you. daily kos is the largest progressive democratic blog site in the US. It was established by Markos Moulitsas Zúniga
        thus the KOS reference. I am one of 8 people on the admin team.

        I understand the “being overstretched”. One resource I’d like to refer you to is Green Diary Rescue which posts every Saturday at 1:00 pm Pacific Standard Time. It is a great roundup of eco posts.


        • pendantry says:

          No worries, JC.* I often forget to click the ‘notify me’ box myself, and even when I do I don’t always check through the relevant inbox. Though I’m sure some get upset by ‘being ignored,’ life’s too short to try to keep up with everything. Perhaps I should end all messages on this innerwebz thing with ‘no response necessary, I understand that you have a life, too’!

          I really, really must get around to completing that post in my draft list, the one in which I witter on about the mixed blessing that is asynchronous communication, a thing that us hooman beans were never really designed for and which I believe it will be a while yet before we really get the hang of. Well, me, at least. One day…

          ‘Green Diary Rescue’… not sure what that is. I see Daily Kos on Twitter uses that phrase a lot. Is it a hashtag thingy maybe?

          * Hey, shouldn’t your first name be ‘William’? ;D


  3. ccgwebmaster says:

    I think there comes a point when you know enough that these problems that further information is not really capable or likely of substantially changing ones analysis and understanding?

    Pursuing knowledge aggressively past that point is arguably more an academic exercise than a practical one, depending just how much you need to know for what you are doing. With limited time – is the pursuit of additional knowledge from a purely academic point of view the most productive thing to do?

    I personally think it isn’t.


    • pendantry says:

      While I don’t disagree, I find I’m always struggling to avoid, uh, what’s it called, it’s not the Dunning-Kruger effect, it’s confirmation bias, that’s it.

      Hey, I just discovered another term that’s entirely new to me: depressive realism. Hmm… that suggests that being depressed might actually… help? That can’t be right. Ah, I see it says “… the results may not apply to the real world.” That figures.

      It’s always possible that someone may one day turn round and find that global warming isn’t caused by our irresponsible stewardship of the planet after all. Though I guess that wouldn’t change the end result.

      How’s the boat coming along?


      • ccgwebmaster says:

        But what about offsetting confirmation bias with optimism bias (where individuals tend to selectively retain only positive information) – assuming either or both applies of course (not sure they’re universal, just very common).

        As to probability and possibility – consider that it is thought possible for the atoms in your body to turn into iron (or even to decay entirely over very long timescales):
        So technically it is probably possible that either one of these can happen:
        1. You spontaneously turn into a solid iron mass (decorative at least?)
        2. All your atoms decay at once (removing London from the map – that’s a really big explosion in human terms)

        It is however fantastically improbable (probably even moreso than finding climate change wasn’t caused by human activity) even if technically possible.

        Boat – I’m expecting to have the sticks (masts) ready to put back on soon with new standing rigging – and not long thereafter to have rest of the sailing rig operational (just need to replace a few little bits and pieces). I gotta make a move soonish though…


  4. Thank you Pendantry. You cheered me up after having just read a distressing advertising line. “The vitamine E in the capsules contributes to the protection of the cells against OXIDATIVE stress.”
    One more stress on my list , :-)) bless them all! :-))


  5. If you have an hour I recommend

    More of the same I’m afraid, but the key phrase is the speaker ‘is controversial, that’s what I do’- the theme of the talk is that fossil fuels are supply constrained not demand constrained- no shit Sherlock- and that GDP is slowing because of peak oil not supply is reduced because the economy is going slow. Yet the oil companies hold on to this myth believing that when the economy picks up the good times will return- they are so certain they have been selling off assets and borrowing money just to pay off dividends. Like paying your gas bill with a wonga loan on the expectation you will get a job very soon, and in fact you can afford the 1750% interest rather than face up to the reality of no real future because – well, there has always been a ‘recovery’ in the the past.

    so who is the crazy one? Governments and oil giants? or realists? You are privileged and you get a front row seat in the biggest thriller movie ever- it is broadcast on every media outlet in real time. Sit back, grab popcorn and enjoy.

    Remember you are special- what of the chances of your existence on this planet at this time? Remote. and this point in human history of peak everything is something all civilisations throughout the multiverse go through once. It is our personal Truman show- how does it all end?


    • pendantry says:

      Re your “no shit Sherlock” point: yes, it never ceases to amaze me that the free market fundamentalists don’t seem to grasp the point that our entire civilization is based upon a commodity that is… not subject to a free market. Odd, that. (The only conclusion I’ve ever been able to reach, given that the most powerful folk on the planet are clearly not stupid is: they treat the rest of us as though we are, and spend their time pulling the wool over the eyes of the ‘electorate’ to maintain the status quo).

      Re: my personal Truman show. I don’t know how it ends, and am not keen to find out. (But then, most folk go through life avoiding thinking about death as much as possible for obvious reasons, so I very much doubt I’m alone there.)

      The remoteness of the chance of my existing on this planet at this particular point in time is actually the best hope I hold out that we’re not all doomed. My reasoning is convoluted and confusing (and almost certainly entirely wrong), but hinges upon the implied anthropic principle, which is to say that since the probability of me being here, not just “at all”, but “at the point in time that coincides with the apparent threat of the imminent end of all life as we know it” is (or appears to be) vanishingly small, my perception of the universe I (appear to) inhabit must, therefore, be seriously flawed.

      I do also take solace in the fact that if there is a multiverse then there must be at least one alternate me whose cards have fallen in a better way.

      In short: I think your advice to grab popcorn and watch the lunatics’ antics has a lot going for it.


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