Chris Hedges on Whether We Can Change Trajectory and Avert Collapse

Yves here. Chris Hedges opens a new series on Real News Network by discussing how dire our current situation is, particularly from an ecological perspective, and the reluctance to acknowledge it and take corrective measures. Hedges incorporates a religious perspective, which I anticipate will resonate with some readers and not with others. But absent religion, it appears to be surprisingly difficult to get most people to worry about the consequences of their actions if they think they are likely to occur after their death. Personally, I think we are already seeing the impact (Hedges points to the efforts of the rich to isolate themselves from the rest of society). And with scarcity of potable water estimated to become a large-scale problem by 2050, and climate disruption affecting agricultural production now, the runway is likely to be shorter than many people anticipate.

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  1. Emma

    Interesting clip.
    Hedges’ impression that we live in a system of belligerent inverted totalitarianism whereby corporate forces have seized the levers of power to render both citizen impotent and climate change irreversible, harks back to the fascist ideology of Mussolini and the mixed economy.
    Hedges then proposes that mass movements of dissent and civil disobedience be built against the corporate elite as the solution.
    Spoken like a misguided revolutionary!
    Sure, a country is clearly not civilized if it cannot respect the rights of all its citizens, and aside from Sheldon Wolin, if the last few weeks’ NSA revelations are anything to go by, I think Camus and his definition of democracy should be brought to mind too.
    However, the Eagle today has talons like thorns permanently soaked in rat poison and it has already desiccated the country, and a majority of people have already unwittingly surrendered to the mummy-metamorphosis and forgotten what either freedom or a healthy planet genuinely feels like.
    Therefore, just as Cassandra predicted the destruction of Troy, and was unable to stop the tragedy, Hedges is going to have to recognize that though unlike Cassandra, many fortunately believe him and his bleak climate reports (moi aussi) predicting the rapid demise of the planet, the majority consensus is made up of either the minimally cerebrally gifted or those who increasingly struggle to achieve even the basics of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and so a tragedy will indeed occur because too few are sufficiently able to care about the consequences of their actions after their death.

    1. John

      I used to sit higher up on Maslow’s pyamid and I cared and tried to change the destructive course we are on environmentally for many years.

      Now that the finacial terrorists of Wall Street have knocked me down to the bottom of Maslow’s pyamid I am just stuggling to survive and have no time or money anymore for the environmental fight. Note to criminal elites: your evil is working.

      1. Saddam Smith

        I hear you. I did the same thing because of Gandhi’s beautiful admonition to be the change you want to see. What became quickly apparent to me was how dependent we are (especially middle aged fathers of two with unemployed wives) on the corporate teet. Profound change is more or less impossible prior to collapse. Total collapse. After which the bickering and screaming will likely lead nowhere. On what will we naked apes agree? Where are the cultural skills we need to organise ourselves maturely and democratically? #Occupy is trying to get this going, but the Titanic will not change course. We are too tightly locked together and to the ship of state for anything else to be possible. My remaining hope is that enough compassionate and empathic people are pragmatic, young and free enough to begin building the new. And that they build well.

        I hope you’re making do ok. My thoughts are with you and all others like you. I salute your courage.

    2. Lexington

      Therefore, just as Cassandra predicted the destruction of Troy, and was unable to stop the tragedy, Hedges is going to have to recognize that…the majority consensus is made up of either the minimally cerebrally gifted or those who increasingly struggle to achieve even the basics of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and so a tragedy will indeed occur because too few are sufficiently able to care about the consequences of their actions after their death

      Taking the long view one way to address apathy about climate change is to link it explicitly with economic inequality through the medium of consumerism. It is the consumerist obsession with maximizing economic growth that is impoverishing both wage slaves and the environment. That is capitalism’s achilles heel.

      Of course rejecting consumerism is going to require getting people to rethink their relationship to stuff and to each other, and that’s no small paradigm shift. Which brings me to the next requirement: a political movement that can challenge the dominant ideology needs a social as well as an economic component. Most people are not intrinsically “political animals” and will only remain engaged in politics as long as their most pressing grievances remain unmet. Many can be bought off, for a time at least, with modest concessions. Changing the system demands long term, sustained engagement, and doing that means bringing people together on a much broader basis that narrow economic self interest.

      European social democracy (and to an extent also the American labour momvement in its heyday, although it crucially failed to evolve into a political movement in its own right) did this brilliantly by sponsoring social activities so that people with similar economic interests got to spend leisure time together, on the theory that the social bonds thus created would ensure much more sustained engagement with the movement. Only the most diehard party hacks want to give up a weeknight to debate the future role of worker collectives under socialism, but if it involved cheap beer and bowling turnout took off.

      Granted in the early 21st century this strategy needs some tweeking. I think it’s an open question for example whether the fact we live so much more of our social lives “virtually” rather than face to face is a help or a hindrance. To the extent that a plethora of entertainment options keeps people at home alone watching reruns of CSI it’s definately working in the interests of the 1%.

      1. Banger

        I’ve often suggested more and better parties as the only way to start developing a more human culture, at least in the U.S. which houses a singularly toxic culture that runs counter to all our deepest instincts.

        Politics that works comes from a social millieu–no social millieu, no effective politics. Sadly, online communities do not work–they could if they combined with face-to-face contact but it has rarely happened.

        Our situation has been a long time coming and has been forseen by social critics for quite a while–John Ralston Saul, Neil Postman, Morris Berman, Christopher Lasch and many others have been ignored consistently. So here we are.

        Our problem is, as I often say, cultural and for something new to come along the culture needs to change and the only way I know would come from more hanging out, more parties and much less work.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          I hate to sound so chronically pessimistic, but in America, I don’t see how it is possible to come up with any sane political solutions. We’ve had 20-30 years of fanning extreme and rigid beliefs on numerous political issues. Go talk to Texans about guns, or people on either side of the choice or immigration debates.

          The rigidity around strongly-held positions is made worse by an inability in this country to have civil discussions across political lines. I lived in Oz, and there people who had fundamental disagreements could have intelligent, extended, non-heated discussions about their opposed views. That is virtually impossible in the US.

          So we’ve been deeply culturally inculcated to be incompetent at the sort of political process we need to have to more forward. That is probably a big driver of renewed interest in more local politics as a way out. The spectrum of political views tends to be narrower in any one place than it is across the US, so there is at least a possibility of finding areas of agreement and collective action.

          1. F. Beard

            Not to worry. Perhaps the Eurocrats will continue to discredit central banking in Europe. And who knows, maybe our Congress will continue to be stupid enough to enrage the population into a unified front.

            Wise parasites the current PTB aren’t.

          2. Banger

            Political discussions are impossible here because Americans in general live in fantasies and if I question your fantasy world it is really questioning your fundamental sense of identity. Reason beyond a very rudimentary level is unrecognized to settle differences. That’s just the way it is. In my view this is due to a public education system that has utterly failed.

          3. Emma

            Well put Yves.
            The horse one chooses to bet on in the US is irrelevant because politicians on both sides here are mutually hell-bent on projecting their own twisted polarization upon the other. In doing so they become more intolerant and hostile than is necessary, and cripple any capacity to create potential for fair, compassionate, common-sense solutions aimed at everyday Americans on the street.
            Not that it is all fair-dinkum back home in Oz, but at the very least we don’t really need to play soccer like battering rams in a padded cell…..

            1. Please don't kick me out, I promise I'll read the Terms and Conditions, 'cept I'm looking fer 'em and can't fine 'em

              Ah, so you are Australian! Well, its good to be noticed anyway (says a blushing America)… even if you’ll evidently have nothing to do with us, trashy and overwrought as we are.

              Good luck down there. Nevil Shute says the weather should be real’ nice down there, oh, in some hypothetical future (circa last century). So, shucks, I guess we can only wish you the best.

              P.S.: Yes, I agree sarcasm is lame, so no offense. Just tryin to be provocative, er, just clownin’ is all.

              1. Emma

                Well since I plan a beach party early next week to dance the Jindyworobak Movement, I’ll invite a rejuvenated Shute out of his dark earthen den to feel the nice Aussie sunshine for himself.

                1. Ent-whist

                  Welp, had to Google it, naturally, being a piggish and ignorant American. But. I’m not sure if you were being deeply ironic or if I really am missing out on a fine, very literal and not at all rhetorical party next week. Oh well.

          4. Synopticist

            Yes, I’m equally pessimistic about the States.
            I’m often shocked by how polorised the debate on any issue quickly becomes in America, dems blaming reps and vice-versa. I would guess this is a deliberate policy by the oligarchy.

          5. Please don't kick me out, I promise I'll read the Terms and Conditions, 'cept I'm looking fer 'em and can't fine 'em

            Maybe sympathy for the other POV is how you start (improving things)? Seriously, we’re all in it together.

            Also, a serious question, rather than a form of passive belligerence itself: Do you talk to those types of (Texan, say) folks yourself — other than in Digitropolis, Htmlia! I’m not sayin’ you don’t, I’m not saying you do. Ergo, the question.

            Thanks for doing what you do, all the same.

        2. Please don't kick me out, I promise I'll read the Terms and Conditions

          “Our problem is, as I often say, cultural and for something new to come along the culture needs to change and the only way I know would come from more hanging out, more parties and much less work.”

          Hear, hear! Maybe Lexington’s idea about free beer and politics isn’t so far off. “Four more beers, four more beers…” Eww, but maybe then someone would get up on some elevated flat thing and starting squawking into a microphone about politics. There is little worse. Still, neighborhood kegger’s shouldn’t hurt.

    3. tim

      Emma, you seem to have missed the critical point that he makes that regardless of the seeming hopelessness of the situation, the only right course of action is to do that which seems the most possible to work against this decline – the moral imperative. To not get beyond the facts of our predicament or the mass of people seemingly oblivious to it is a failure to fully understand what he is saying. He would agree with you on most other points, I’d imagine

      1. jrs

        Protest may not be the most effective dissent and that the dissent BE EFFECTIVE is an absolute necessity. Civil disobedience is disobedience that jams the gears.

        However the point is definitely not to surrender all moral action in such crisis situations we face to the damands of everyday life. I think the point being made in the post above is some people literally do not even have time to think about these issues, the demands of survival are so great. Joe Bagant wrote a great article on this. But people posting on a message board (here or truthdig or whatever) obviously aren’t people with *that* problem :)

        Love love love Chris Hedges, but I admit he’s bleak, pehaps a bit too bleak.

    4. Ray Phenicie

      ” the majority consensus is made up of either the minimally cerebrally gifted or those who increasingly struggle to achieve even the basics of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and so a tragedy will indeed occur because too few are sufficiently able to care about the consequences of their actions after their death.”
      Unfortunately, what you say is for the most part accurate. However, Ghandi was able to move folks into a movement of massive passive reistance. However, he did most of the moving himself. Perhaps we need to have another Ghandi come up and I am increasingly seeing that is what is required.

      However, we can look at the likes of the NAACP and their long concerted struggle as well as that of Martin Luther King and see that there is a possibility that the moribund population can be motivated to massive resistance where millions of folks take to the street, day in, day out, week after week, weary month after weary month.

      1. tts

        Anyone like a modern day American Ghandi shows up and trys to change things and they’ll be marginalized by the media a la OWS and then targeted by the police state again and again until they either give up or are sent to a Ultra Max detention center or Guantanamo.

    5. jake chase

      I expect we will get financial collapse before we get environmental collapse. Ponzi speculation makes this more or less inevitable. On environmental questions, however, you should realize that human progress is a delusion. Man is the animal who fouls his nest.

      Nevertheless, individual happiness remains possible inside the corporatist nightmare, but it takes personal discipline and a willingness to forego the breeding fantasy under which most Americans still labor more or less fruitlessly. All this endless bs about children and grandchildren makes slaves out of people to no sensible purpose. More than one third of the children become sociopaths and another forty percent become witless consumers. Giving this idea up would also eliminate marriage as another anvil. With these two out of the way a decent life is still possible.

      Why do the same people who keep chanting about peak oil and climate change insist on having children like nineteenth century fans of Rudyard Kipling? If you really want there to be a future we must all become Amish.

      1. Please don't kick me out, I promise I'll read the Terms and Conditions, 'cept I'm looking fer 'em and can't fine 'em

        “All this endless bs about children and grandchildren makes slaves out of people to no sensible purpose. More than one third of the children become sociopaths and another forty percent become witless consumers. Giving this idea up would also eliminate marriage as another anvil. With these two out of the way a decent life is still possible.”

        Seriously? Sounds like an even quicker way to do an end to the human race!! (What, without some Kurzweilian technological savior, i.e.: science-fiction-y, utopian, immortality just around the bend.)

        But, then, I’m not sure I follow, taking the full scope of your post, including the last bit there, since … aren’t the Amish well-known for having lord-have-merci-beaucoup children?

        1. Please don't kick me out, I promise I'll read the Terms and Conditions, 'cept I'm looking fer 'em and can't fine 'em

          Triple-punned you, so it has to be true

    6. nonclassical

      …answer-reverse “Citizen’s United”, fundamentalist Supreme Court sell-out of “the people’s representative democracy”…

      German energy chancellor, when asked how Germany (same latitude as Seattle)
      was able to complete solar=1/3 of all energy power program in 2 years, when
      forecast to take 20 stated, “German elections are publicly financed” (no corporate control-“special interest” influence of “the people’s representative government”…

    7. Huh

      Yeah, really? So, what’s your point? While we’re all enjoying our collective efforts at painting more and more beautifully tragic a picture, the sick and the dead will some day realize that bitter irony cannot only be appreciated from afar; it can also seize us and render us immediately unto death. Will the audience stand up and cheer at the fittingly dramatic conclusion? You bet. Then all will be comsumed in flames, as Oliver Wendell Holmes rises from his grave in the back and says “torch the fucker,” action movie-style. Oh, and then we clap again.

      Here’s an alternative:


      Corporations are evil? Don’t fuck with them. Do-it-your-damn-self. Starve. It is morally superior.

      Probably the worst that can happen is that the storm will come and pass, and no one will come and award the lucky ones who are able to ride it out on some shitty, dry patch, bemused at the absurdity of it all. Blessed are the ones who will perish! (And who already have.) A different sort of tragedy will then follow, which is the moment you realize this: and that by surviving relatively intact, you too were one of the villains, and, if you are lucky, but worse: that, unlike the power-mongers, you were a liar, too.

    8. Please don't kick me out, I promise I'll read the Terms and Conditions, 'cept I'm looking fer 'em and can't fine 'em

      Censored re-post (sorry for the profanity; there is a strong case in favor of NC not being your average Internet (deleted)-hole):

      Yeah, really? So, what’s your point? While we’re all enjoying our collective efforts at painting more and more beautifully tragic a picture, the sick and the dead will some day realize that bitter irony cannot only be appreciated from afar; it can also seize us and render us immediately unto death. Will the audience stand up and cheer at the fittingly dramatic conclusion? You bet. Then all will be comsumed in flames, as Oliver Wendell Holmes rises from his grave in the back and says “torch the (long-passage deleted). Oh, and then we clap again.

      Here’s an alternative:


      Corporations are evil? Don’t (deleted) with them. Do-it-your-(deleted)-self. Starve. It is morally superior.

      Probably the worst that can happen is that the storm will come and pass, and no one will come and award the lucky ones who are able to ride it out on some (deleted), dry patch, bemused at the absurdity of it all. Blessed are the ones who will perish! (And who already have.) A different sort of tragedy will then follow, which is the moment you realize this: and that by surviving relatively intact, you too were one of the villains, and, if you are lucky, but worse: that, unlike the power-mongers, you were a liar, too.

      And now, a word from the contritely chastised re-poster: I do mean “you” in the collective sense, as in “we,” and not anyone, in particular. I offer a happy face as further evidence of my sincere regret. :)


        Of course, what’s the harm in a little rhetorical flourish when, WAIT, WHAT’S THAT? WE’RE ALL GONNAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGHHHHHHHH (static)

        You know. Urgency and all. Is it urgent or not? Should we start screaming and hollering yet or not? Should we wait till the ol’ guv’nment/big people come in and flick off and on the lights: “Sorry, kids, the party’s over?” “Aww, but we were putting on a play and we were just getting to the part where the heroic Internet intelligentsia rides to the rescue of the swooning proletariat!” Big people, again: “Hon, I know, but you know its time for your shackles and treatment with the hot irons.” “Shucks, okay, mom.” Big people again: “Oops, forgot, we have to fly to Chronos, you know, where the chosen 144,000 are holed up for the apocalypse. See you at the end of time, sweet-pie.”

        I hope the humor is working on somebuddy else. Cuz laffing at the inevitable horrible fate can help, maybe sort of. If I am entertaining only myself, sorry. bout. that. I’ll muster some adult conversation some other day, maybe.

        1. Ent

          You have that wrong (me again):

          The climax of the play is when the dread and somber prophet of complete annihiliation comes in like a wraith. He stares at the eager, childlike masses with his pallid eyes before taking a breath. But as he opens his mouth to speak, the kid who was supposed to play god farts and the whole playroom floats away on a cloud of laughter: an ironic intervention which cannot do better than to conclude the farce which had as its intended motif the salvation of humanity via irony-in-the-architecture, spinning in infinity, (can I get an) amen, hallelujah.

      2. jrs

        Wow, I know that Hedges and the more pessimitic environmentalists are too bleak for some to deal with, but that’s your reply?

        If you prefer pay not mind to the most pessimistic predictions, but do pay a mind to the diagnosis: we can’t keep trashing the planet. Another diagnosis of Hedges: the police state is FOR the environmental collapse, that’s why it’s being built! (although economic collapse would also make good use of it – so I can’t rule it out).

        1. Ent-whist

          (Name change, for obvious reasons)..

          Who, moi? No, maybe my post was too convoluted…

          Me-thinks you speak the truth, jrs.

          But, what I am not sure is what anyone proposes to do about it. I say, don’t take to the streets, cuz they’re already took (as you have pointed out) but instead escape to the fields… Start doing some real work towards self-sufficiency and escape from the horrible conspiracy of the broader society? In short, DIYOwnDamnSelf

          But, you know, I am open to suggestions, dialogue all that. So long as it doesn’t turn into the equivalent spectating when and as the spectacle does come. That’s what I am afraid of: being guilty of being a spectator, whether a cheering or a groaning one, don’t matter.

  2. F. Beard

    And with scarcity of potable water estimated to become a large-scale problem by 2050, … Yves Smith

    Don’t think so, not with the progress in desalination I’ve read about. And even for inland regions, there are such things as aqueducts and pumps.

    But regardless, it is the large-scale practice of usury that demands exponential growth. And the practice is large-scale because government privileges debt-creation (e.g. government deposit insurance, a government provided lender of last, etc) when private money could just as easily be Equity.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      No, you cannot look at desalination in isolation. If you do, you are missing the dynamics big time.

      Desalination is energy intensive (meaning the fact that you can produce water does not mean you can produce it cheaply enough on a large enough scale) and produces salt on such a scale that disposal is a problem. I’ve attended conferences with gung-ho “technology can surely fix this” types (the entrepreneurial greenies) and they lament that the approach pretty much everyone is taking, treating food, energy and water sufficiency in isolation, is going to result in a train wreck. The issues need to be tackled in an integrated manner.

      And potable water is what we will run out of first, it’s the most pressing resource bind. For instance, in Gaza, a humanitarian crisis is already underway and the strip could become uninhabitable in as soon as a few years.

      See also:

      1. Newtownian

        Agreed. The Ecological Economists, physiologists and thermodynamics people have a lot to say about this problem of embedded energy having enough inputs to keep the system going v. excess to allow growth.

        Its starting to be appreciated through life cycle assessment analyses even though the business community probably sees such tools as providing cost reductions before insights into ecological sustainability.

        Central to this issue is energy and its availability and (increasing) expense in an absolute sense. Part of the tragedy is the chronic undervaluing of what natural systems have provided us, especially potable water, at no cost to human society. Now we are having to replace these (appallingly resourcist named) natural resources with energy that might otherwise have been used to lift the poor out of their condition.

        1. Paul

          “Their” (i.e. the 0.1%) issue with looking at the problem from an integrated perspective is that it pollutes the profit and loss projections, which in turn are time dependent.
          I.e. Net *Present* Value gives them the perfect excuse to capture the profit *now* before someone else profits from it.
          In some instances creating a problem also means creating a solution which can be offered — at a nice profit — at some later stage.
          I can only imagine the Fracking Club busy at work to supply the regions and municipalities with freshwater pipelines, after the water tables have been totally depleted / polluted.


        2. F. Beard

          Energy is certainly the constraint but it need not be. Thorium reactors should carry us into the fusion age (assuming the money system does not destroy civilization first) and the waste heat from them can desalinate water (since they run at much higher temperature than boiling water reactors).

          As for lifting the poor out of poverty, that’s a problem with distribution, not production. And that problem results from money based on debt, instead of money based on Equity.

              1. Joe Miller

                What if Satan actually wrote the Bible while everyone thinks otherwise? How would you know that he didn’t?

          1. Thor's Hammer

            There are a few um– problems with the transition to a LFTR thorium reactor based energy system.

            The first being the necessity of replacing the majority of industrial civilization’s infrastructure. One that was built upon cheap fossil fuel energy that is in now in depletion and becoming less and less able to fund and power the transition. And in the face of runaway population growth, constrained only by diminished food supplies caused by runaway climate change.
            Meanwhile just keeping pace with the transitions forced by climate change is likely more than we as a species can achieve.

            The second being political in the largest sense. There is a reason why LFTR technology was abandoned in favor of light water reactors and their bi-product plutonium. Humans have always preferred to build weapons of war and brainwash their young men into using them rather than behaving with wisdom and maturity as a species. Where is the evidence that the decision makers, whether they be the oligarchs of today or a post-revolutionary junta of tomorrow, will exhibit the wisdom to look beyond the next annual bonus check or the manipulations necessary to hold onto power?

            Are humans smarter than lemmings?

            1. F. Beard

              One that was built upon cheap fossil fuel energy that is in now in depletion and becoming less and less able to fund and power the transition. Thor’s Hammer

              Carbon (from the air if desired for carbon neutrality) + water + energy = hydrocarbons + oxygen.

              Hydrocarbons are a GREAT way to store energy which is why they are so dang hard to replace as liquid fuel. So let’s make them instead.

              And sure. Humans are flawed which is why they need a Savior.

            2. MaroonBulldog

              I’ve read in a couple of different places that 99.95% of all species that ever lived are now extinct.

              What must you think the realistic prospect for the human species are?

            3. Joe Miller

              To be fair, the lemmings in “White Wilderness” were tossed off of a waterfall by Disney’s staff. They never commit mass suicide at all.

        3. Yan

          I remember attending a conference in 2009 at UNESCO called “Resolving the Water-Energy nexus”. It turned out to be a plea by participants to invest in their favorite energy technologies without any real mention to the “nexus”. As Yves points out Desalination is truly energy intensive and cannot solve for large scale irrigation needs, unless unfathomably subsidized (cost per cubic meter tends towards US$ 1). Either fusion becomes a reality or not going to happen. It does solve, however, the potable water problem.

          Also, the sea salt problem is not really a problem if you build submarine emissaries that dispose of the salt far into the sea ( >1 km). It does create a small “dead zone” around where the salt is disposed of, but the environmental risk is negligible. Especially if you compare it to sucking dry underground aquifers or disposing of treated waters into the sea.

          1. tts

            Dumping it back into the sea is asking for long term trouble and increasing salinity of the ocean is already looking to cause problems in the next few decades.

            The only way to reasonably get rid of that much salt (we’re talking about millions or billions of tons of the stuff in the long run BTW) is by burying it on land. But that is expensive and water desalination is already pretty expensive on top of that so the idea will go nowhere.

        4. Ent-whist

          Pity there aren’t more poor to poorly pity. Or is it, “Please, sir, can I have some poor?” “No, son, I just poored the last drop.”

          (Don’t mind me, just clownin’)

      2. F. Beard

        Actually, Steven Solomon in the 2nd link speaks favorably of desalination.

        As for the salt produced (more likely brine) it can be dumped backed into the sea (with care so that marine life is not harmed).

        1. psychohistorian

          What is the added cost going to be to filter out plutonium and cesium from Fukushima

        2. tts

          It has to be cheap and also produce high volumes to be viable on a mass scale.

          That thing you linked to appears to rely on microfluidic chambers which are currently DAMN EXPENSIVE to work and is almost certainly low volume to boot since it needs to push water through 22nm channels in order to “filter” out the salt and particles.

          I wonder how long something like that would work too. If its breaking or getting worn out constantly then there is no way it’ll be viable for mass producing fresh water too.

      3. Jess

        Yves, don’t forget the amount of water that is being taken out of the water supply permanently by its use in fracking and other chemical processes.

  3. Jeff W

    the runway is likely to be shorter than many people anticipate.

    And may be even shorter than that video indicates.

    Dr Guy McPherson (h/t to Fishbum in this comment) says a rise in global temperature of 4º C from the baseline (“devastating” according to the World Bank, which Chris Hedges alludes to) could occur as early as 2030. You can watch a recent video of McPherson here—it’s pretty scary stuff.

    McPherson (in a periodically updated blog post) also points to Nafeez Ahmed’s recent piece in The Guardian which makes the connection between NSA surveillance and the Pentagon’s concern about potential civil unrest due to “catastrophic events” linked to, among other things, climate change.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Yes I don’t like making forecasts, but I think the 2020 decade could be much nastier than most people imagine.

    2. neo-realist

      So maybe the American Southwest starts to become a barren death valley days region in the 2020’s and the 2030’s—-the midwest may be seriously suffering as well—-and Northwestern cities and states start to see dramatic population explosions?

  4. tulsatime

    Sure looks like we are deeper in it than anyone really admits, or can publish. Ice melt, jet stream changes, ocean acidity, species extinction, are long cycle climate trends that don’t reverse quickly. Denial seems normal on a macro scale for most civilizations. Too bad we can’t forget contaminates like Fukushima.

    1. Brindle

      Jet stream changes were not in current models—University of Sheffield research shows the severe melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet in 2012 due to shifting Jet Stream.

      —“Our research found that a ‘heat dome’ of warm southerly winds over the ice sheet led to widespread surface melting. These jet stream changes over Greenland do not seem to be well captured in the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) computer model predictions of climate change, and this may indicate a deficiency in these models.”—

      1. J Sterling

        a) by pulling carbon out of the ground and burning it in the air. And by having children at 2% per annum, a rate almost impossible to match with a minus sign in front of it. Even the world’s most suffering countries only have population declines measured in parts per thousand per year. People don’t even die at 2% per annum, unless their life expectancy is fifty years.

        It’s a lot easier to pull string out of a hole than it is to stuff it back in, and it’s a lot easier to make ashes out of a book than to make a book out of ashes. Some things are much easier to do than undo. See Pandora, also the proverbial can of worms and the cat that got out of the bag.

        b) even as quickly as two hundred years would not be quickly enough.

  5. middle seaman

    Emma, poetically and charismatically, has touched on many significant points. Yet, inverted-this or the 1% winning the war just doesn’t make me close having a handle on what it t is hat we should revolt against.

    At least since WWII, the western world adopted consumerism as its first religion (even the extreme Tea Party on the right and the left). Consumerism for huge and poor part of the population is Walmart, Marshall’s and Bank of America. The 1% didn’t fight; the 99% fought, died and won it for the 1%. That sounds almost as a new definition for suicide.

    Revolution doesn’t cure the waste we teach our kids. (I included.) We buy too much, we eat too much, we hate too much. No wonder we are running out of everything and hate raises the temps too.

    We created our political dysfunctionality (with respect to the 99% only). The left’s Tea Party haunted Hillary with a language that would have called for a bad soup rinse of the mouth a generation ago. Merchant of hate did a marvelous job of destroying a positive person. (Hey, we got the Messiah from Wall Street instead.) We all elected the representative of Wall Street and of Lip Service for president. The media helped elect W; Gore was way too serious for their happy lives. Again, we the lefty old timers could see how everyone practically elects officials with no talent, no morals and no respect for the 99%. Surprise! They don’t care.

    A revolution will bring us our version of the Muslim Brotherhood. Thank you very much.

    Berrigan wins in this debate, but it’s a Pyrrhic victory.

    1. Seth

      “Messiah from Wall Street” is an apt summation of BHO, but somehow I doubt that HRC would have been a whole lot different. We need to be looking a little farther away from the DC beltway for new political leadership.

    2. Strangely Enough

      The left’s Tea Party haunted Hillary

      The woman from Walmart? The one that fronted for “the Messiah of Wall Street” after the election? That Hillary?

      Why do people put warmongers on pedestals? Fascinating…

      1. El Guapo

        No kidding. as if there is a bit of difference between “The Messiah of Wallstreet” and Hilary f’ing Clinton. I wonder if Lambert will support her when she runs this time given how vociferously he shilled for her in 2008?

        1. Lambert Strether

          Yeah, there are still a few bitter enders who are ticked by how accurately we called out Obama in 2008. Perhaps you’re one of them? In any case, I left the Dems permanently in July 2008 when Obama flip flopped on FISA reform and nobody called him on it.

    3. Ent-whist

      It all (the self-righteous and paralyzed apathy) sounds like a bunch of reverse-Panglossianism to me:

      “Oh, don’t worry, because we live in the most dyspeptically delicious of all doomed worlds.”

      Spread your boredom on thick every morning, on a bagel; that way it carries you all day into the ennuit.

  6. MaroonBulldog

    Somehow, it reminds me of Winston Smith’s thought that the proles could be mobilized to overthrow Big Brother. Sad to say.

  7. Victorinux

    Framing the struggle as a moral imperative is the last redoubt. For every one person that thinks like Chris Hedges, there are thousands upon thousands of apathetic blissful-ignorants, opportunists, and/or believers in the status quo.

    The problem is that regardless of how well substantiated my arguments have been, I have never been able to change any opinions on what “reality” really is. Perhaps by seeing these repeated disappointments as a moral duty, I can avoid the creeping cynicism that has now developed into a seething, festering, and bitter hate for almost all Americans.

    1. John

      “cynicism that has now developed into a seething, festering, and bitter hate for almost all Americans.”

      With ya there.

      1. Ent-whist

        One man’s sweeping self-hate is another man’s weaping transcendence of self.

        Or, within and despite the self, it ought to be cultivated. Nourish it, like a cactus, and bloody your hands on it! Then, drink its ether, and begin your dreadful vision-quest.

        Don’t mind me, just clownin’.

    2. Banger

      Well, there you are. The problem is now you not the Americans you hate. It is hate itself (the Dark side of the Force) that is the problem because it is “that” that inspires fear, anger, suspicion, greed and all the other vices. I happen to love people–since I live in the United States, I love Americans even their illusions and vices. Why? Because they have been enchanted by a century of mind-control consciously undertaken by everyone from the Creel Committee, to Madison Ave., to the CIA using the most sophisticated tools available and the most brilliant minds in the world. The Egyptians built pyramids, the Greeks discovered and nurtured philosophy and theater, and we have perfected mind-control. We have been able to program people to do the opposite of what they are inherently meant to do. This is one reason I admired Hunter Thompson so much–he leant an air of sanity to this culture by his willingness to do the opposite of what was expected nearly always.

      As I’ve often said, there are only a few outlets left to us. First, intellectually we must start with where Hedges ends–his analysis in combination with his friend Morris Berman is where we have to place our minds. The situation is utterly hopeless–this is the best analysis out there and it is indisputable. The mainstream academics ignore it because they are mainly fools and hacks. But what then? Leave the country like Berman? Make gestures of protest like Hedges? Maybe, if that’s what rings your bell–but there are many other ways of ringing bells. If the situation is hopeless and there is no viable sensible way out it is logical then to be non-sensible. It is logical to go into mysticism or its brother/sister, crazy-wisdom like Hunter achieve through excess and intoxication, or just singing the blues, one of our great art-forms–or the arts, or magic. The realm of the anamolous, the irrational is all a fertile field. Heges roundly rejects mysticism and magic but as someone who has directly encountered that strange and paradoxical realm it is the only fertile frontier left–the only place the oligarchs have been unable to game. Agains, the situation is hopeless so there is no other place to go.

      1. jake chase

        I realized all this thirty years ago, and have spent most of my time since 1980 studying golf. Last week, I finally figured it out. Can’t wait until I recover from surgery to see if I am right. Then, I suppose, a book tour….

      2. Ent-whist

        “and we have perfected mind-control”

        … Hey, I can see you’re a glass half-full kind of guy (or gal, whomever). Perhaps we all need a dose from that half-full glass!

  8. Hugh

    My response to this type of post is to point out that we have two sets of crises. The first set is made up of kleptocracy, wealth inequality, and class war. We have five and no more than 15 years not only to address these but to resolve them. The second set of crises poses an existential threat not just to our country, but our species. The first of these is overpopulation. The world population will hit 9 billion around 2040. This is at least three times the planet’s human carrying capacity. The second is resource exhaustion, energy, food, and water. The third is environmental destruction: climate change, species loss, ecological disruption, and pollution. If we do not completely change the trajectory we are on, humanity will experience an apocalypse, and it will come intimately to know its four horsemen: plague, famine, war, and death. Human population will fall from 9 billion in 2040 to one billion or less by 2100, a 90% die off.

    The appearance of failed states, peak energy, and of course climate change is a manifestation of these processes which will multiply and get exponentially worse as the centruy progresses. The tragedy and the crime of it is that much of this is still manageable, if not avoidable. But we must act now. Delay is not an option. Yet so far, delay is all we have.

    1. craazyman

      Faaahhk, that’s grim. Feels like that to me right now, maybe ’cause it’s 120 degrees here in New Yakk. For some reason though I still think the planet is heading to a mini ice age, probably because I generally distrust “experts” and with all of them on one side of the boat I’m thinking the next wave that rocks one degree to far will be 35 degrees Fahrenheit like something out of the Gulf of Maine in January. That’s cold as hell. It’ll make an ice cream headache seem like a funny joke. The other thing that probably will happen is population collapse once people stop having big families. Cold and lonely. that’s the future. Folks will be wandering around in eskimo outfits with binoculars looking for somebody to go have beers with.

      1. skippy

        The problem with New Yakk metropolis is…. its reality bubble… which is magnified by both its inhabitants personal reality multipliers and the biggie… the myth of its self.

        Now if its location was say on a glacier built hundred[s of years ago. Well… reality would have some clarity.

        I hear the Fertile Crescent was a bit greener and wetter back in the day. On boulders in the middle of deserts there are pictographic illustrations of river crocks, giraffes, big game, all the way down to Libya. You know… where our species got its toe in the evolutionary door thingy.

        skippy… sorry old chum… the anthropological evidence keeps building and building… the majority of our species has a nasty habit of devastating its environment… nay sacrificing… the orb… in the name of some Mythos. Now some geography is more giving and some not [latitude thingy], yet at the end of the day… Thermodynamics and Bio]Physics are immutable… only the quantity and quality of time and space – regulate – arrival to designation.

      2. John

        Wow. Are you on some crazy delusional trip.

        The coming apocalyptic reality is going to make you wish your lonely eskimo theory were true.

        1. J Sterling

          In 1813, the world population was 800 million, less than two-thirds the Indian population today. Yet you don’t see Jane Austen’s heroines wandering around an empty Bath Town looking for people.

          (yes, there was terrible poverty in Jane Austen’s day, but you didn’t have poverty and inequality because of the low population. It doesn’t work like that. Likewise, the somewhat greater comfort and technology we enjoy today doesn’t come because we’ve got seven going on eight billion)

        2. jrs

          Does anyone remember the twilight zone episode where a person dreamed they were burning up, that it was mercilessly hot, and the world was ending in the heat, and then they woke up and it turned out that had a fever, and the world was ACTUALLY ending because it was freezing to death, and their doctor was on the last flight to Florida for a few warm weeks before it was all over.

      3. Lambert Strether

        Everybody’s building the big ships and boats
        Some are building monuments, others jotting down notes
        Everybody’s in despair, every girl and boy
        But when Quinn the Eskimo gets here everybody’s gonna jump for joy

    2. Thor's Hammer

      What was “God” thinking when he constructed geophysical reality? But we humans have learned to cope by constructing our own virtual reality based upon consumerism and denial.

      Wonder which will triumph?

      Are humans smarter than lemmings?

    3. JEHR

      You paint a fearful picture but I have to agree with you when I think about a (once) small conflagration that was called “Syria” and just how little effort was put forward by all the other nation states to stop the civil war that may even yet wipe out the Syrian people. If we can’t even stop a leader from trying to annilate his own people, what hope does the entire planet have?

      1. Ent-whist

        So, bring it to a conclusion. Assad runs amok. (Bad, bad man [wagging finger].) Humanity is fokked. (Bad, bad men [stern-faced now]). What do we do until then? Strike a tragic-comic pose and stamp our feet? I don’t get it.

        The thing is, after the digital cocktail party, life continues. So what do we do with it, folks?

        1. alan gensho

          A real question and it was answered by chris h. at the very beginning when he referenced Rev. daniel berrigan, we end up needing to face and act within our personal moral dilemma. each of us will go there – go willingly, and you may gain the way, sometimes our ancestors did.

          finally each of us must decide whether to step beyond words and act however we choose to do. that is the moral choice and it will validate your life, your very life.

    4. Banger

      Act how? There is no viable way to act, there is no movement, no “place” to act from, no left, no opposition to speak of. That’s the point of what Hedges is trying to say and also what Morris Berman agrees with. The situation is hopeless. Hedges says you act for the sake of the act–there is no hope you will succeed using logic but you know that “the good attracts the good” and that’s all you can do.

      We need to recognize that we exist in a regime of mind-control. It is a consciously created regime that started nearly a century ago, in symbolic form, with the Creel Committee and has continued as a careful engineering project since then. And it has worked brilliantly. This is why there is no organized opposition. Occupy was an unorganize opposition that was an attempt at breaking up the mind-control regime which is why it inspired such panic in ruling circles–but it could not last for logistical reasons and for the fact that the organizers just grew tired. Opposition is just too hard not only because of hostile authorities but because swimming against the tide of culture is too hard to sustain–I know, I’ve spent a lifetime trying and I’m tired, very tired. I have written about some possible steps to take and will comment at the end bottom of this discussion.

      1. jake chase

        The only sane option is dropping out. Become more of a spectator and the whole disaster is just a bad movie. I mean really, human beings become extinct- so fucking what?

    5. Brooklin Bridge

      That’s an excellent summation of the issues, but the part where you say, The tragedy and the crime of it is that much of this is still manageable, if not avoidable. But we must act now. Delay is not an option. Yet so far, delay is all we have., that part, is simply wishful thinking except for the last five words. It simply isn’t going to happen any more than say the media explaining to prospective homeowners that the banks were setting them up for a giant rip-off was ever going to happen or the politicians owning up to their own responsibility in the home ownership scam and doing something to rectify it was ever going to happen or the courts and the AGs ever holding anyone accountable was ever going to happen. It wasn’t and as far as addressing climate change goes, it isn’t. Because climate change is like a giant giant tanker on global steroids – once you set it in motion, you simply can’t stop it – even the 1% are thoroughly snookered by their own propaganda. Moreover, like overcoming the inertia of climate change, pumping enough co2 into the atmosphere to overpower the earth’s ability to compensate, the inertia of total corruption has also been overcome and, along with the consequences, can not be stopped easily or quickly. Our whole society lives off of a form of corruption, addiction to unsustainable consumption, and that too is now irreversable; it WILL play itself out.

      Yet I find it hard to blame the 99% (not that you, @Hugh, are suggesting that). They are up against the most sophisticated propaganda machine ever devised by man. They are up against a thoroughly corrupt political and legal and financial cast of characters.

      We can revolt all we want; at this point we are along for the ride and if that means going extinct or coming damn close to it, then that is where we will be in the realatively near future. Don’t get me wrong, I believe we should still revolt, still object, still do what ever is in our power to stop it. That may save us as a species, or it may save our souls, but it won’t stop our rendezvous with the consequences of what we’ve set in motion.

  9. paranormal corpse

    “Human population will fall from 9 billion in 2040 to one billion or less by 2100, a 90% die off.”

    more like at least a 99.999% die off. just consider hundreds of unattended reactors.

    might be a massive die-off (whether natural or engineered) before then anyway

    let the good times roll

  10. PaulArt

    We can still believe in America because of people like Chris Hedges. A true, great and wonderful American. Someone who has the power to inspire, like Mahatma Gandhi, Cesar Chavez and Snowden. You look at Hedges and you atleast momentarily put away your cynicsm that tells you humanity has mutated out of that emotion called compassion and empathy. God Bless Chris.

    1. nobody

      I like Hedges on the whole, but there are several aspects I find problematic, for example his engagement with Occupy.

      First, he was urging people to get arrested. That’s one thing for somebody like him, another thing for people who are destitute, without the ability to hire lawyers, and, if you don’t already have a criminal record, liable to suffer serious long-term consequences if convicted. (Not to mention, helping to provide more info for Their databases and watch lists.)

      And then, the “Cancer in Occupy” crap — furthering divisions and feeding our dehumanization.

      1. Inverness

        Hedges is essential, but a bit sanctimonious and lacks enough charisma for that kind of role. He is a wonderful activist and writer, but not necessarily someone who could inspire the masses. You need a populists’ touch. Just a little Michael Moore — not because Moore is right all the time, but because he’s relatable and funny, and that matters.

        Cornell West, maybe?

          1. Inverness

            You missed my point — read carefully. I wasn’t arguing for Moore, but someone with his relatability.

            1. nobody

              I did see your point, but I have found Michael Moore to be particularly pernicious and I wanted to take the opportunity to register that.

              About the role and its suitable occupant, I would like to believe that it is possible to get beyond the desire for populist leader/hero/saint/prophet figures, and instead accomplish the large-scale awakenings that are needed on a basis that is more collaborative and cooperative than individualistic.

              1. Inverness

                I understand what you’re saying — that is, to go beyond populist appeal. It is hard for me to believe that a more nuanced, intellectual approach could ever gain mass appeal, and that’s what can hold back the left.

                1. Inverness

                  Damn, I didn’t really address one of your points. I really want to agree with you…cooperative movements do avoid the whole hierarchical approach. I worry about a repeat of Occupy, where the movement is barely a blip on anyone’s radar these days, but who knows? Maybe David Graeber is onto something, that movements that are more democratic can work. I hope so.

                  1. nobody

                    No, I think the populist appeal is necessary. I’m suggesting that it be grounded at a cooperative level — small groups for certain kinds of projects (maybe 4-8: a band instead a solo act with backing musicians), and larger groups (maybe 60-150: symphony-sized, or a tribe) for others.

                    Where an individual leader IS needed, more a step-up step-back kind of thing: it’s my turn for a solo, but the next time it’s somebody else’s turn, and we’re not going to let a situation develop where too much is riding on any one person, and that person develops some kind of aura that causes them to be seen or treated as some kind of higher kind of creature, or primus inter pares.

                  2. nobody

                    Graeber was Hedge’s partner/opponent in fostering the divide in Occupy. The main reason there’s not much left of Occupy, and its potential never fully flowered, is the repression, brutality, violence, and subversion inflicted upon it. But I think the movement could have withstood that; there were internal reasons for failure too. Graeber stood for an Occupy in which “We Are The 99%” was a fairly empty slogan — for the hegemony of activist culture within a movement that was actually incredibly diverse, and in which “anti-capitalism” is the central narrative. It’s old-paradigm, last-millennium thinking and it’s part of why Occupy failed.

                    1. Mary's Muffins

                      Occupy is alive and well. A big effort was made to convince the public that occupy is violent, and it seems that NDAA was created simply by the successes of non-violence. If tyranny is brought about by corruption, injustice largely from the pen, to respond with violence simply gives the opposition a way to win. Hedges didn’t spontaneously come up with that well known truth.
                      When we see other influences on the kids, like people loading guns and muttering about the freedom to do so, it seems to be just another attempt at distraction.

              2. Banger

                Yes, but few people want to collaborate–that’s the whole reason there is no real left in this country. No community no possible political power. Until the left is willing to understand the utter hopelessness of our current culture of individualism/narcissism there is no possible path open to us.

  11. profoundlogic

    This goes back to that “requisite level of pain” threshold I have alluded to. The trajectory won’t change until enough people are forced to reevaluate their situation. We came close to something like that moment in 2008 but the kleptocrats avoided what could have been a pivotal moment in American history where we rectified a number of policy mistakes.

    As it stand now, we have nearly 50 million who are dependent on government assistance just to feed themselves, and a large percentage of the remaining population is comfortable enough to turn the television on every evening to catch their daily dose of reality TV and other assorted distractions.

    Make no mistake, we will ultimately pay for our collective apathy and our failure to demand more of leaders. Hope and good intentions will only get you so far. It’s the blood, sweat and tears that most Americans aren’t willing to part with that will be our undoing.

    1. Susan the other

      I think the thing most people are not willing to part with is their car. Just think what an elegant solution eliminating automobiles is. It cleans up city air almost overnight; it reduces pollution from coal electricty almost overnight; it gets people to at least walk to the bus stop so their blood pressure goes down and their happiness goes up; it eliminates all the industrial pollution from making steel and making cars; it provides an excellent new resource for recycling; and it will bring about a far saner new industry – that of public transportation. Just to name a few. No More Cars. Why is this so confusing? Even Bernanke thinks it is a good sign that car sales are up. No Mr. Bernanke – it is not a good thing.

      1. jake chase

        Susan, I’m sorry, but people aren’t willing to part with anything they have; they insist on parting others from the things the others have. You know the type: they think everything would be hunky dory if Lloyd Bankfiend just took less money. For me, I simply hope he chokes on some rotten caviar or drowns in his indoor pool or impales himself skiing.

        Is that wrong?

  12. MIkeNY

    Thanks for posting. I always appreciate Chris Hedges.

    The religiously tortured Melville obsessed over the fecklessness of goodness confronted by evil: Starbuck in Moby Dick, Billy Budd. But Melville’s gloomy endings are not the only endings humanly possible — Gandhi and Mandela, the civil rights struggles in this country are proof.

    Hope is a necessity, and yes, a virtue. I think we must acknowledge the immorality in the organization of human affairs — and we must hope, in order to muster the courage to confront and diminish it.

    1. Patricia

      Hope is a virtue until it becomes self-deception.

      Past hope, defiance is a virtue, going ahead “in spite of”, insisting on responsibility and love for the sake of the reality at hand.

    2. Banger

      No, I think hope is not a good path right now. The situation is utterly hopeless–there is no path out of this situation using logic. I cite both Hedges and Morris Berman on this and their voices are deeply informed.

      Once you accept hopelessness you are free. You are free to do whatever you think is right. It is our inability to see beyond our noses that is the problem, it is the fact we don’t understand that we live under a regime of carefully engineered thought-control and thus the first task is to lose hope, stop thinking as you have and freak the f!ck out. Whether your path is Zen, or going in the direction of Hunter Thompson or whatever will make you as as crazy as possible to break out of the conceptual cages you and I have live in all our lives and encouraging others to do so–then we can find some paths that are worth taking but all other paths are not open—we are stuck, deeply stuck and we must face that fact. Chris has the courage to do just that and I admire the guy for that. His mantra is that the “good follows the good” that may be the best path towards something.

      1. Patricia

        “…we don’t understand that we live under a regime of carefully engineered thought-control and thus the first task is to lose hope, stop thinking as you have and freak the f!ck out…. then we can find some paths that are worth taking but all other paths are not open… the “good follows the good” that may be the best path towards something.”

        Much better said than my tidbit. I completely agree.

    3. jake chase

      You can see one results of the civil rights struggle at a prominent university hospital, which shall remain nameless but should be recognizable by anyone who has been treated there. The hospital administration has created a new plantation in which a small army of witless and sullen slatterns struts around barely pretending to work and is protected by bureaucratic insistence on affirmative action. Meanwhile, the white (and Asian) labor force carries on heroically, doing double duty, the nurses there being the very best product of three hundred years of American civilization. You have to experience this to believe it.

      Why is it racist to hold people to a single standard?

      1. Jimbo

        Hey gang, let’s ask Trayvon that same question. Hey Trayvon,
        why is it racist to hold people to a single standard?

        Trayvon’s just laying there. I don’t hink he’s going to answer.

  13. Fishbum

    The best book on this topic is William Ophuls “Immoderate Greatness: Why Civilizations Fail,”.

    Quoting from the book:….. “human societies are addicted to their ruling ideas and their received way of life, and they are fanatical in their defense. Hence they are extraordinarily reluctant to reform. “To admit error and cut losses,” said [Barbara] Tuchman, “is rare among individuals, unknown among states.” Instead of changing their minds, leaders redouble their efforts to do what no longer works, wooden-headedly persisting in error until the bitter end…..A gradual and gentle transition to a viable agrarian civilization capable of supporting large numbers of people and a reasonable level of complexity is extremely unlikely….We must recognize that the deep structural problems elucidated above have no feasible solutions….Hence…the task is not to forestall a foreordained collapse but, rather, to salvage as much as possible from it, lest the fall precipitate a dark age in which the arts and adornments of civilization are partially or completely lost”.

    It’s a small completely brilliant book, and there’s a $4.99 ebook edition at Amazon. It’s a must read!

    1. Banger

      Great quote and spot on. Thanks for the reference.

      The first task is to break out of the conceptual framework we are all stuck in, maybe drop a lot of acid or something, ya think?

  14. Aussie F

    We’re a failed species and it’s pretty much over. I console myself with the thought that a future free of human cruelty (150 billion animals killed each year) will be an improvement for the majority of life on the planet. Unfortuately we’ll probably leave a poisoned biosphere behind us.

    1. nobody

      There will be, what, 500 nuclear reactors to decommission? How likely is that to be done successfully in the midst of major collapse? If not accomplished successfully and the accumulated waste safely buried somewhere, what are the consequences going to be for “the majority of life on the planet”?

      1. psychohistorian

        I am glad i am not the only one thinking of all the inconvenient details inherent in our coming demise.

  15. OMF

    Cynical as I am, even I don’t see the situation as being hopeless. Looking back into history, we have examples of societies in appalling conditions which eventually managed to, perhaps not escape them, but at least improved things.

    The example I would give is Micheal Davits Land League in 1880’s Ireland. In the 1870’s, Irish tenants had few if any rights, and were ruled over by an Irish elite or “Ascendancy” which explicitly distanced itself culturally and morally from the general population (The present Irish eleite still do this).

    Nevertheless, through determined campaign, organisation, mass rallies, media, and political reform, and it must be said a degree of violence and conflict, The Land League succeeded in gaining rights for tenants in spite of the initial hopelessness of their situation. Those with no say in society rose up and demanded their voice and their justice from it. And they got it.

    The West in general, and America in particular, needs such a mass, organised, political and social movement for reform. It has to start small, at local levels, just like the land league, and has to begin a long determined campaign for reform.

    There is much energy and appetite for such a movement. Unfortunately, I think a lot of has been wasted on the “Occupy” movement which, to be blunt, I see as a dead end. The Occupy movement sits at the feet of power and pleads to the consciences of elites for reform. It is almost designed never to succeed. There is nothing to be gained from “Occupying” institutions and systems which have become utterly corrupt and dysfunctional.

    America does not need an Occupy movement. America needs a Reform movement. A movement that demands and forces reform at every level. A movement that uncovers and challenges corruption, that identifies dysfunction and pushes for changes, and above all else, a movement that puts forward new political candidates for election so that power can be taken back from the corrupt elites in the Democratic and Republican parties.

    There is a hunger for change. But it will require determination to achieve it. Those who have the state in a death-lock will not loosen their grip easily.

    1. Lexington

      I’m surprised by your hostility to the Occupy movement. I think reform as you understand it is exactly what the movement was demanding – not asking for, but demanding. The tenor of Occupy was qualitatively different from previous discussion about inequality in America in that it breached the taboo against speaking about class and class interest that has so long neutered any meaningful discussion of socio economic division in America.

      Granted Occupy didn’t change the world but it got people thinking and talking in new ways, and that is the crucial first step.

      1. Onemoretime

        Well said Lex. Too many people think change is something that is suddenly going to occur by fiat decree as if we all woke up in one morning and said: What happened? This is terrible!”
        Occupy, dead or alive, has been an important part of this change. It changed the conversation. It conceptualized many diverse thoughts. It even got some tea party types to realize that they had some things in common with those “hippies” and vice versa.
        So given change is a constant I will hope that legislative change will occur when enough people realize: If not me than who? If not now then when? What we don’t need are false prophets who promise hope and change.

    2. Carla

      I second Lexington’s surprise at your dismissal of the Occupy movement, which is not dead, but was forced underground by a conspiracy of elected Mayors, local police departments, the FBI, Homeland Security, and the mainstream media including public broadcasting.

      It is a lesson in how quickly relatively small, peaceful, constructive efforts can be infiltrated, squashed, and pushed out of sight.

      The Occupiers have my great respect. Thank goodness that many of them continue their work, even if you, OMF, don’t happen to know about it. And we will need every one of them.

    3. Banger

      The whole analysis of Hedges, and you must read his books to understand it, is that there is no hope for reform. In Ireland and elsewhere there were communities here we live in an anti-communitarian culture where we pride ourselves as being separate and alone. There has never been such a culture before and that isolation is no accident but has been deliberately engineered and it worked and it continues to work such that, no matter how bad things get, there is no way for reform to occur just as there is no opposition movement of any strength other than on the right.

  16. Walter Map

    And with scarcity of potable water estimated to become a large-scale problem by 2050, and climate disruption affecting agricultural production now, the runway is likely to be shorter than many people anticipate.

    Not to mention economic collapse, which can occur any time, seeing how the bloated mess is increasingly supported by a rickety scaffolding of mere debt and actually fixing it has been conscientiously avoided.

    Chris Hedges is unrealistic. By 2050 civilization will be circling the drain.

    Why, when the situation is so clear and alarming, does it remain so stubbornly intractable to change? It’s because those who have power in the world want it to be this way. The masters of mankind believe their wealth and power will protect them from the adverse effects of their depredations, but the fact is that they cannot leave the planet and by 2050 will be going down the well-known oubliette as well.

    Neither the masters of mankind nor the general population have the means to prevent it. Mighty militaries and mightier egos are perfectly useless. The technologies in which people have placed their hopes, for all their wonders, are insubstantial: all the computers in the world cannot stem the tides, and the tiny machineries of humankind are as nothing to the coming planetary blight. The situation is too far gone, and too long in the making. The die is cast.

    I’ve used words like ‘catastrophic’, ‘cataclysmic’, ‘horrific’, and ‘nightmarish’ for a very long time. They’ve seemed less melodramatic with every passing year, especially since now the stark realities are seen to be marching in from the horizons.

    I thank the gods I am not young in so thoroughly finished a world.

    Come away, o human child!
    To the waters and the wild
    With a faery, hand in hand,
    For the world’s more full of weeping
    Than you can understand.

  17. TomDor

    However, the evolutionary process by which monkeys made men of themselves was considerably slower than the reverse process.

    Speaking of plastic surgery, isn’t there some way of transferring bone from a politician’s head to his back.

    “The tyranny of the legislatures is the most formidable dread at present, and will be for long years,” Thomas Jefferson wrote to James Madison on March 15, 1789. “That of the executive will come in its turn, but it will be at a remote period.”

    “We, the People, are the rightful masters of both the Congress and the Courts. Not to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow the men who have perverted it.” – Abraham Lincoln

    The overwhelming influence of great private monopolies in both legislatures and courts cannot continue if we are to maintain popular government. If we fail to regulate grants of public powers properly, invasion of private rights by those powers will be our proper and certain reward.

    We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace–business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.
    They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.
    Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me–and I welcome their hatred.”
    Election eve speech at Madison Square Garden (October 31, 1936)
    Franklin Delano Roosevelt

    “To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men.” – Abraham Lincoln

  18. from Mexico

    Hedges should tread with care, lest he wind up like the historian Jacques Barzun. Barzun’s skepticism and cynicism regarding all the wonderful promises of Modernism, the Enlightenment and the American Dream — his “curmudgeonly perspective” — earned him monikers ranging from the “irascible curmudgeon” to “the last curmudgeon.”

    As Eugen Weber explains in a marvelous series of lectures on the Western tradition, the discovery of the New World was the crowning event of a new age of discovery. It stirred men’s imaginations and unleashed a wave of optimism never before seen in human history, beginning with Modernism, then the Enlightenment, and finally the American Dream.

    First came Modernism. “Descartes sought to construct a bastion of reason against [the] terrifying God of nominalism, a bastion that could provide not only individual certainty and security, and not only mitigate or eliminate the incommodities of nature, but also bring an end to the religious and political strife that were tearing Europe to pieces,” Michael Allen Gillespie explains in The Theological Origins of Modernity. “Descartes aimed to achieve this and make man master and possessor of nature by developing a mathematical science that could provide a picture of the true world underlying the phenomenon.”

    Hobbes, the other primogenitor of Modernism, came to similar conclusions. As Gillespie explains, Hobbes held

    that through the natural law God provides a impulse toward self-preservation that is the foundation for a human science that will make us masters and possessors of nature.

    The goal of Hobbes’ science is thus not merely to understand the world but to change it, to give human beings the power to preserve themselves and improve their early lot…

    Science, as Hobbes understands it, will thus make it possible for human beings to survive and thrive in the chaotic and dangerous world of the nominalist God.

    On top of this was layered the doctrine of the Enlightenment, which grew out of “Bacon’s idea of the scientific transformation of society” and held that man and society could be perfected if only man were shaped and educated properly. Combine Modernism with the Enlightenment and you come up with the American Dream. As Reinhold Niebuhr put it in The Irony of American History:

    inevitably the decay of traditional and unjust political institutions and the remarkable success of the scientific conquest of nature unloosed the hope that all impediments to human happiness would be progressively removed. In the words of Priestly [Joseph Priestly, Thomas Jefferson’s friend and correspondent], “Nature, including both its materials and its laws, will be more at our command; men will make their situation in this world abundantly more easy and comfortable, they will prolong their existence in it and grow daily more happy… Thus whatever the beginning of the world the end will be glorious and paradisiacal beyond that our imaginations can now conceive.”

    Barzun was one of a small handful of thinkers to challenge this lofty notion. Others include Reinhold Niebuhr, John Gray and Stephen Toulmin. The most extreme expression of the pessimism, however, is to be found in the thought of Bertrand Russell:

    Brief and powerless is Man’s life; on him and all his race the slow, sure doom falls pitiless and dark. Blind to good and evil, reckless of destruction, omnipotent matter rolls on its relentless way; for Man, condemned today to lose his dearest, tomorrow himself to pass through the gate of darkness, it remains only to cherish, ere yet the blow falls, the lofty thoughts that ennoble his little day; disdaining the coward terrors of the slave of Fate, to worship at the shrine that his own hands have built; undismayed by the empire of chance, to preserve a mind free from the wanton tyranny that rules his outward life; proudly defiant of the irresistible forces that tolerate, for a moment, his knowledge and his condemnation, to sustain alone, a weary but unyielding Atlas, the world that his own ideals have fashioned despite the trampling march of unconscious power.

    –BERTRAND RUSSELL, A Free Man’s Worship

    Considered by many to be the quintessential atheist, perhaps it is this sort of pessimism that provoked Yves’ assertion that: “But absent religion, it appears to be surprisingly difficult to get most people to worry about the consequences of their actions if they think they are likely to occur after their death.”

    Last night I went back and reread Barzun’s chapter “The Great Illusion” from his book From Dawn to Decadence. It treats of the history of the period 1875 to 1920, which is considered by some to be the first 45 years of the first crisis of Modernism (1875-1945). It is instructive in that many of the problems which Hedges discusses first begin to emerge during that era. It’s well worth the read for those desiring some sort of an historical framework in which to locate current events and who seek to enhance their understanding of them.

    Some argue we are now in the second, and final, crisis of Modernism.

    1. Banger

      Whatever state we are in we are now in historical outer space. We are not in a modernist world anymore–that is gone. We are, from a historical POV, in a place never before seen in human affairs, even remotely. Human beings have never lived under such conditions with the kind of technology and cultural attitudes that are normal today.

      History can now offer us no guide other than to tell us the origin or our situation. The solutions to whatever problems we face are not obvious. Hedges’ work have the virtue of telling us that, on rational grounds, our situation is hopeless and I believe that is so. To struggle in the old way, attempting to organize an opposition is just a waste of time–no one will follow. A new kind of rationality that incorporates what we once called anomalies or magic or mysticism or whatever is in order. We live in a post-modern, post-enlightenment, post-Western time. First we accept that fact and then we can explore and see what happens.

    2. Phrase

      “ The Death of the Liberal Class “ by Chris Hedges answered many questions for me. I am a believer in the power of goodness, the source of which being defined from many perspectives. For me, that book’s content conveyed just how difficult it was for even the well schooled and connected to speak out. I understand and have forgiven the ‘gifted’ intellectuals and moral leaders from not doing more. And yet, the more i read, the more i become aware of just how enormous the body of ‘enlightened’ thought is. Each time i visit NC, and other alternative information outlets i find treasures of profound, transformative thoughts just waiting to help thread together a more humane paradigm. … But the dominant narrative continually strives to deny full spectrum analysis while propelling itself and us, amorally towards the ‘wall’

      … I guess the job to avert such disaster is up to each of us, to contribute in whatever way is available, … and slowly educating oneself to be able to deconstruct that knot. That surely takes time, patience, openness, flexibility, empathy, heart, and work … etc.

      I’m still working my way through many books. … One of those incomplete reads is Rene Forst’s “ The Right to Justification “ … I mention that one specifically because he is from the Frankfurt School whose philosophers i find compatible from an intuitive level. … So, Mexico, this is Postmodernist thought. Fields are not necessarily mutually exclusive but labels can help provide context in communication.

      As Dragan Milovanovic wrote in “Dueling Paradigms: Modernist v. Postmodernist Thought” :

      “Modernist thought had its origins in the Enlightenment period. This era was a celebration of the liberating potentials of the social sciences, the materialistic gains of capitalism, new forms of rational thought, due process safeguards, abstract rights applicable to all, and the individual it was a time of great optimism (Milovanovic, 1992a, 1994a; Dews, 1987; Sarup, 1989; Lyotard, 1984; Baker, 1993). Postmodernists are fundamentally opposed to modernist thought. Sensitized by the insights of some of the classic thinkers, ranging from Marx, to Weber, to Durkheim, Freud, and the critical thought of the Frankfurt School, postmodernist thought emerged with a new intensity in the late 1980s and early 1990s. “Let us wage a war on totality” states one of its key exponents (Lyotard, 1984: 82). Most of the key concepts of modernist thought were critically examined and found to be wanting. … Entrenched bureaucratic powers, monopolies, the manipulative advertisement industry, dominant and totalizing discourses, and the ideology of the legal apparatus were seen as exerting repressive powers. … In fact, the notion of the individual free, self-determining, reflective, and the center of activity was seen as an ideological construction, nowhere more apparent than in the notion of the juridic subject, the so-called reasonable man in law. Rather than the notion of the individual, the centered subject, the postmodernists were to advocate the notion of the decentered subject.”
      … i have not read this article in its entirety as yet …
      I guess the ‘critical thought’ concept of the Frankfurt School goes along with my attempt to always try to incorporate more facets into the lens of my perspective. That being said i need to revisit basic Frankfurt School teachings to more correctly align. …

      For me, it seems that the timeline of our lives is always open for a new take. … Or to refresh an old one. … I’m reminded of the moral character and writings of the late Tony Judt, who i should find some time for again .

      thanx Yves, Mexico, Branger, Chris Hedges … et al. … phrase

  19. RanDomino

    Hedges is a worthless piece of crap, who has never done anything productive and whose (few) efforts have universally resulted in failure. He’s in the business of division, demoralization, and authoritarianism. His ideas of organization and revolution are so sophomoric that it would be merely pathetic if he didn’t have such an infuriatingly wide sway over so many good but misguided people. I suspect he’s a CIA asset, but if he’s not then his efforts are even worse for being his own.

    1. Banger

      Who knows his real face? But I will tell you this–he is holding up a great mirror to us. His views are to me the culmination of the works of many others–he is not alone in his conclusions all of which are based on highly reasoned argument.

      His most useful conclusion is that our situation is hopeless–I see it as a profoundly liberating concept. From that point we can step almost everywhere. It is our narrow conceptual frameworks that have trapped us–it’s time to move on—even for Hedges.

      1. RanDomino

        It’s not “hopeless” in the sense that no one will come to our aid (and therefore it’s up to us to save us), but “hopeless” in that it induces paralysis. Change comes from organizing, but Hedges does nothing toward that effect. Why bother if it’s hopeless, right? Instead, his big plan was an inane lawsuit against the NDAA provision for indefinite detention, which was laughed out of court, as could have been predicted by anyone who has two brain cells to rub together.

        1. Banger

          Hedges won in court–it’s now on appeal and likely he will ultimately lose if it gets to the Supreme Court. Still, it was worth doing. Hedges advocates radical non-violent civil disobedience. Hopelessness actually is something I learned in Zen. Hope can clutter the mind Jane sap energy. I don’t think Hedges is counseling despair either. We should move beyond both and just move towards what we know is right and let fate or Karma work out the rest.

  20. LAS

    Well, this is interesting on a number of levels, but what strikes me most forcefully is the difference between Chris Hedges and Daniel Berrigan. It is faith in God for salvation. Chris is still putting his faith in mankind, which quite naturally generates disappointment in the extreme. You cannot talk only to mankind if you want to find strength, hope, power and joy. For men these things are impossible; for God all things are possible.

    1. Dave

      Have I gotten the above topic and proposed solution right? The topic is that the evil corporations are destroying the planet? The solution is to have the people take over and fix things?

      Seems to me that the consensus of the above then is that if the rapacious and avaricious corporations are replaced by the rapacious and avaricious gullible fools we’ll be OK. I think not! You folks have way too much faith in a greatly distorted view of human nature.

  21. Dino Reno

    Our own mortality is a given, self-ware we are as a species. Yet we fret about extinction, particularly the most secular among us. Since 98% of species are now extinct, the road map is pretty clear on where we are headed. Only question is when and how. Accidental or self-inflected. A distinction without a difference.
    Appealing to the religious among us, who hold Dominion Over the Earth, to
    take charge of the reins and change course to avoid destruction is an appeal not likely to succeed. Religion provides the keys to heaven, making the earth a temporary stopover. Hardly enough time to change the drapes.

    1. MaroonBulldog

      “I spent my soul to the invisible,
      Some visage of the after-life to spell,
      And by-and-by my soul returned to me,
      And answered, ‘I myself am Heav’n and Hell.’

      “‘Heaven but the vision of fulfilled desire,
      And Hell, the shadow from a soul on fire,
      Cast on that darkness into which ourselves,
      So late emerged from, must so soon expire.'”

      Edward Fitzgerald’s reimagining of Omar Khayyam.

  22. Jenny Clerk

    The fact that the Obama administration has won back the terrible NDAA means there is plenty of work to do. But look all around, there are signs of rebellion. That guy who walked out of General Dynamics should provide inspiration during yet another toxic heat wave, he followed the guy who flew out of Booze Allen.

  23. steelhead23

    In expressing a kind of metaphysical rationale for struggle, or rebellion as a moral imperative, is precisely why I “waste my votes” on third party candidates. It is my recognition that when one chooses the “lesser of two evils” one is, none-the-less, choosing evil, legitimizing the system that limits our choices and accepting the practical over the moral.

    I feel certain I will raise a chorus of dissent when I state that the U.S. hasn’t shown any moral leadership since the days of Jimmy Carter and it is we proles who are paying the price. Rebel we must.

    1. sd

      Always vote your conscience.

      Looking back, Jimmy Carter was our last chance to change direction. Alas, the American people chose Ronald Reagan who appealed to the inherent greed of human nature. Voters could take off their sweaters, turn their thermostats up and drive faster than 55. Booyeah!

      1. Tokai Tuna

        Yes, we can hardly forget the injection of specious religiousity in mainstream politics as well as the installation of Al Qeada in another strategic location. Then came the morning of the last days in America in 1980.

  24. Brian

    “Let’s try to find other ways to save our planet rather than those that are natural or right”. Sound ridiculous? Chris sees the obvious and speaks to it. It might be wiser to listen than try to figure out why he is wrong. If you are doomed, you live it. If you want change, you live it. Thanks Chris.

  25. Chris Rogers

    First and foremost, and for the record, I concur with the sentiment Chris Hedges expressed in the RN broadcast – although I do not read much of his output as I’m British – usually its George Monbiot’s of the Guardian, which is about as radical as one can get in the UK’s censored media, and The Archdruid Report of late – whatever the case, I’m afraid to say I’m a dystopian, never mind a Cassandra, and with good reason I’m afraid to say.

    That said, not one post presently on this thread has addressed the central issue, namely an ability to connect with the people in a language they understand.

    Now, and just by reading the 70 posts thus far on this thread, its clear to see that most of you good folk are by one definition or another, MIDDLE CLASS, well read and erudite – just look @Mexico or numerous other posts here now!

    But, and here’s the rub, moments into the RN interview Hedges drops the word “existentialism” into his open gambit, and at that juncture, he’s just lost the argument as far as a majority of the populace is concerned, because either they have no understanding of the word, or, by its very length, he comes across as pretentious – even though we regular readers of NC know this not to be the case.

    As such, how on earth can anyone build a mass movement to try and alter the ruinous trajectory most nations are on, when the very persons we need to garner support from have an inability to understand the complex language we ourselves deploy – or from a sociological/linguistic viewpoint, many are deploying an elaborate code/language, rather than a restricted code/language that the majority will understand, i.e., think George W. Bush and his ability to act as thick as two planks, while the fact remains he had one of the best education money could buy – although at first glance it seems to have done him no good as he does sound an idiot, which I think he played on to fool many.

    So, lets open this thread up a little more, its great for posters to demonstrate and share knowledge, knowledge of a high educational level, but the fact remains, little of the language deployed has any significant meaning to those who’s support is desperately required if this corporate tyranny is to be reversed and the planet saved from the crass greed and stupidity of many of its inhabitants.

    I’ll leave it there.

    1. Tokai Tuna

      You can’t start rebellions on corporate blogs – for here is censorship without any participant even aware of it.

    2. Whist

      So, what, we need catchier slogans? Maybe if I meet a people, I will try to learn his language.

      1. Chris Rogers

        I suggest you actually perhaps go and take a look at numerous education books dealing with language and actual education attainment levels among the classes – although Yank’s seen to have an inability to comprehend they live in a class-based society.

        Language at the end of the day is a code and each group/section of society has its own language – see African American ghetto language.

        Usually, the dominant socioeconomical forces ram their language down your throat, its one reason they remain dominant.

        This has nothing to do with marketing or slogans and every thing to do with language – Chris Hedges may as well be talking in Latin, for at best, only about 30% of the US population would comprehend what he’s talking/writing about because he talking/writing in whats termed ‘elaborate code’, which the vast majority of the USA does not actually speak – so a home goal there I’m afraid.

        1. Whist

          Re: a code… That’s neat. Do you mean to include the connotation of that word which includes secrecy of the message? Is Chris Hedges being guarded?

          Also, just wanted to point out the irony (without being mean, if you believe me) that I might do more book learnin’ to get better acquainted with how the uneducated think. Not sayin’ it couldn’t work… but so could trying to have actual conversations with these hypothetical cretins!!!! Er, underprivileged people, I mean. I doubt you view it in the former sense.

          To me, it is the difference between studyin’ up on tha street slang so that we can sell some revolutionary message to them (again, I am putting words in your mouth, but please do well to correct my apprehensions) and enacting “revolution” directly and unpretensiously by undertaking the only task that really matters, world without end, amen, which is talking, being with, and helping the needs of our neighbors. Should we read the latest novel written by pale-skin (maybe African-American, techinically) pedant who has found a way to psychically channel the huddled other-masses through his magnificent gifts of “empathy…” Or, you know, I could go out an git some direct learnin myself.

          Or, I could hit up NPR’s “Code Switch Team,” and some fat (over-priced?) linguistics books to hit myself over the head with until I learn to talk more dumb.

          I’m funnin’ ya, so don’t waste your time being offended. But do endeavor to correct my errors. And that’s a “thanks” in advance.

  26. Walter Map

    None of the prescriptions offered in this thread are feasible under totalitarianism. The national security state will view any of the suggested actions as a challenge and a threat to the New World Order, and can and will ramp up the engines of suppression to any level needed. So you’re done before you can even get started. They still might let you whine if you’re quiet about it.

    It’s better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness, but naturally that can only lead to the criminalization of candles.

  27. Banger

    As I’ve said in answer to many comments on this most fascinating discussion, the best thing Hedges does for us is to show us that there is no hope–at least not hope in the conventional sense. His insight that “the good follows the good” is a first class insight. I live by this as best I can and what it looks like for each of us will be different. I don’t, for example, think that getting arrested or going on demonstrations does much other than bind us with others and that’s my point here–there are two paths, in addition to Hedges’ moral path that we should consider.

    First, is to work towards community however we see that in our private lives–in fact our private and public lives should be closely linked and based on social life. It is part of the mind-control regime created by the oligarch class that teaches us that we are individuals (this is a manufactured myth created to weaken us and is completely contrary to human nature as science has demonstrated) who ought to follow our own narcissistic interests. We are linked to others even when we reject those links.

    Second, we have reached the end of modern rational analysis. All utterly rational projects to link ideas, science, philosophy even mathematics have failed since Whitehead and Russel attempted to begin that process over a century ago. Ultimately, that most logical of logicians, Wittgenstein showed us that philosophy and logic could never be much more than an arbitrary game, following the strict rules of logic and, of course that a deep investigation into physics itself can only lead to paradox not because the physics is flawed but because our conceptual framework has not matured with our knowledge. To be more precise, we have to step out of the box of what we now recognize as logic to something someone like Terrence McKenna would recognize as beyond logic or what Hedges categorically reject “magical thinking” but not the sort of magical thinking of children but that of alchemists and true sorcerers. That realm exists and has persisted throughout human history–it’s time what is left of the West begin to explore it.

    1. Whist

      ” even mathematics have failed”

      hmm… not so sure about that. What was the object of mathematics that it may or may not have failed in attaining? I’m not sure it has an object!

  28. sierra7

    We no longer have any whiff of a functioning democracy or republic.
    We are finished, only we don’t know it yet…

  29. Hugh

    The truth is all power resides in the 99%. If we so willed it and acted together, the power of the 1% and all their wealth, that is the control of us and our resources, could be swept away in an afternoon. It is precisely the point of the class war the 1% wage against us to keep us divided so that never happens. We are like iron filings, each pointed in its direction, isolated, powerless. Yet align those filings, give us a vision of a better society, engage us, respect us and seek our commitment, and we align and become, like some vast electromagnet, a power that can move mountains.

    Money, the levers of power, public office and public institutions, the police, the military, everything that the 1% controls becomes meaningless in the face of a unified nation. The only way we can be defeated is if we defeat ourselves, by not trying, by refusing to act together.

      1. Hugh

        A commitment of all to all to build a just, decent, and fair society, where each is accorded the resources for a meaningful life: job, home, food, education, healthcare, and retirement, and the freedom and privacy to pursue it.

        1. Whist

          Sounds like the American dream! So, you want to continue that old revolution? Not criticizing exactly, just asking for confirmation or correction.

          Next question: Means Ends? (or equal, if ya want).

          And what do you means, “meaningful”? Not everyone is going to agree that the picture you have painted is meaningful. What do you do with the obstreperous ones? For instance, some may pursue meaning from winning, domination, pursuit of unparalleled riches and so on. So, you stomp on their dreams don’t you? A sacrifice for the greater good, no doubt! But what, then, does your freedom mean? Yes, yes, I know, freedom from want, fear, etc. Yes, this is criticism, but hopefully you take it as a friendly kind.

          1. Hugh

            The way to realize what people in a society want both for themselves and as a society is to ask them. Most people I know want the basics so that they can go live their lives without fear and with a certain level of privacy and meaning. This does not mean that everyone will live wisely, that some people won’t screw up, or that some will always want more than they need, but the compact I am suggesting is for both the individual and the society. We as a society undertake to take care of those who fall down and contain those who act only for themselves.

            1. Will-of-the-Whist

              Well, I’m with you. Still, a further criticism or what-have-you:

              The “love thy neighbor” precept seems to teach what you are suggesting but in a way which is directed at individuals (debatable, to be sure) rather than at the level of whole societies, just to cite a source. The question is: to what extent do we (re)build some sort of institutions that will both lend a hand to those in need and restrain those who are flouting the general agreement to respect others, etc., and risk the danger that these institutions, to the extent that they involve a collection and concentration of power will be subject to the misuse (if designed poorly, maybe, but still) of its directors and to corruption , or, alternatively, begin articulating what it might mean to have the sort of society that you—and no doubt, as you say—that anyone (“just ask them”) would like to have, which attains the description you have articulated, but without the top-down prescriptions and institutions which may again lend themselves to abuse.

              You know, that old thing. My suggestion is “love thy neighbor” for satisfying that part about the needy, and “nemesis,” to keep it vague, for the people who break the pact. This may not be acceptable to many (plus I didn’t explain it, just named it), but it is the only intellectual stance I find which cures my anxiety over mistakenly treading the path “paved by good intentions,” to put it in a handy cliche.

              Catch you on the other thread, maybe.

    1. wake up

      Of course, but firstly, there will never be a common consciousness of necessary change in all the 99%; this is why a “spearhead” faction should take the lead. Secondly, the 1% will never renounce its privileges without being forced to. Civil war it’s the only way.

  30. The Dork of Cork.

    I am just pissed that I can’t catch any Mackerel this summer as most of the shoals appears to have moved north to Iceland & the Faroes.

    But this is not a some sort of new event.
    It has happened before in Ireland.

    There was once a large sardine fishery off the south coast of Ireland in the 1600s…
    I don’t think they had the technology to overfish – the fish simply moved.
    No man made warming back then either.–1750

  31. The Dork of Cork.

    But this will be used as a EU market state stick to beat up on Iceland as anybody who knows anything about the EU market state knows that the surface of its deep dark ocean is not what it seems……

    I am not prepared to take the anthropogenic global warming thingy hook line a sinker.
    Hedges appears sceptical of many things but not corporate science ( almost all science is now corporate as observations require vast amounts of capital)

    When there was commercial & naval pressures to push for more accurate navigation -that was what drove 17th & 18th century science and it was very successful….fair enough.

    But that was a very defined goal driving research in astronomy etc etc….much of which later went at a tangent to the core objective.

    But we live in a very different world now – modern science is very amorphous.
    It is therefore difficult to define and indeed confirm.

    Somebody or something states fatty fish oils causes cancer…..some time later some other group points in the opposite direction.

    Modern science is a punch & Judy show full of second rate students working for a corporate something or other.

  32. Teejay

    “Those who see where we are going lack the fortitude to rebel.”, Chris writes. I too see where we are going, but it’s not fortitude that I lack. It’s a clear sense of how to rebel.

    1. Whist

      The rebellion is against power… that is, because there is too much of it, you know, concentrated here and there. How? because people give it to them. For instance, what would happen if your car broke down? Darn. You need somebody else. You need to pay them, etc. You have ceded power over a large aspect of your life by needing a car. Not your fault? Consider that one of the things you need a car for is to go and make money at a job somewhere, to be able to get there in a timely fashion, say. And what’s the money for? Blah, blah, blah. … Well, food and other things like that. But why do you need money to get food? Well, because you don’t know how to do anything useful for a farmer who would otherwise just give you some food. Or you don’t have a garden, since you don’t have land. Well, there is unused land out there. How about that patch of dirt down the street, in the abandoned lot, blah blah. Well, in short, this is all obvious. And just as obvious: People are powerful, have power over us, because we have need of this and that from them. The more you can do for yourself or for and with your friends and family and neighbors, the less of the “power” gets boxed and shipped and warehoused by the big dogs, to speak metaphorically. Oh, but what about the big armies and things, and the police? So, am I saying that we gave them power? Who, you mean those guys with guns? Who bought those guns? Whose money? Some big people, the Rothschilds probably, right? And they got their money from some needy kings and so on? Blah, blah…. Soon after the division of labor at the ol’ dawn of time, some fatty starting hoarding grain. How did this happen? Make up your own just-so-story, I don’t care. The division of labor went ta-da. Well, we just need to be a little more careful with how we do the dividing. Rebel: do whatever-it-is yourself, or get your friend or someone close to you. Does your neighbor have any needs you can help with? Got any needs I can help you with, neighbor? Too bad I’m a snake and you can’t trust me, icky old bald guy whose house smells like weird food. Yuck. Maybe you have a sexy girl neighbor who needs help. Well, I’m kidding. Rebel and go meet your neighbors, if you haven’t yet. Meet ’em all. They’ll think you’re weird as hell for approaching them if they don’t live next door but only the next door over. Weirdo, why are you knocking on my door. Probably a sneaky salesman or something, aren’t ya. Oh come on, hand over that religious tract and get out of here. Your neighbors do not trust you and are afraid of you. Rebel and approach them anyway.

      Internet neighbors don’t count. Really truly and truly.

      1. Lambert Strether

        For some definition of “rebel” — yours, which is tendentious, not to say dishonest. Of course, violence advocates generally are dishonest. Especially the agent provocateurs and the cops among them.

        1. Whist

          I see the nesting, but just making sure: This is a reply to RanDomino? Because I didn’t understand the apparently unstated broader context.

          Just to be clear (in case there is any doubt): the only thing I advocated beyond the thoughts of an eager high school sophomore was that talking to your neighbors could be a form of rebellion, since it is both socially difficult and risky, but also against the norm. Not that some people don’t do it, etc.

      2. Whist

        Waah. Well, it’s better than being called an agent-provocateur.

        In short: Here is what I am saying:

        “Revolution doesn’t start at home, it starts two doors down from there, where things actually start getting a little scary and uncomfortable.”

        Hey! It’s funny, the folks who live two doors down from my parents are cultists. So, it would be fun to do a reverse proselytization on them: Knock, knock. “Hello, have you thought about my eternal salvation today, because I was hoping you had some religious tracts that you might like me to have. No pressure.”

        You know, you do need an ice breaker. That’s the really critical part. And no broad prescription is going to work for every neighbor.

  33. peace

    A solution would involve revised perceptions and expectations, along with validation from like-minded individuals.

    I’ve worked with the homeless, addicts, survivors of genocide, mentally ill, overworked and underappreciated social workers, and in minimum wage hell (besides working alongside wealthy, successful hyper-strivers). Among the less fortunate, there’s always somebody with a big smile and a positive mindset enjoying at least part of each day with a smile and a shake of the head saying, “Why the f___ not, man?!” Hedges said even he appreciates this attitude somewhat after volunteering with prisoners.

    Bon courage mes amis.

  34. allcoppedout

    I’m not really a pessimist. We are better than the dinosaurs and it’s likely something better will replace us. Despairing of humanity is different. Before pre-selecting defeat on our ability to rid ourselves of the rich we should think what a properly organised human society would be. It’s pretty obvious from science we have nearly suffered wipe out before.

    In a decent human future we would have to control population, police ourselves in such a manner that neither bandits or religious sects with guns could take over, or the police themselves. We ignore this and many moral-intellectual problems this raises, many unpleasant.

    Currently we rely on the sun as our power source with minor exceptions like cosmic rays (which may by a global warmer through cloud action and so on – major journals on this). Photosynthesis is a key process

    Forgetting our miserable politics and economics still embedded in Bacon’s Idols, science has told us of catastrophe potentials (comets, asteroids) and people die all over the place because of our collective idiocy in wars, floods, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and so on we could do a lot more to avoid even before we consider our dumb use of energy. It has also told us the bit of the universe we inhabit will not last forever and it would be a good idea to be able to leave.

    The rational-scientific view is we should make communities more sustainable, robust and focus on scientific progress. I’d add this doesn’t have to be very nice on a logical basis as the vast majority of the human population is in the way of this. There is no shortage, around the world, of mad plans to kill off most of the population, hide underground and build another surface society 300 years on.

    Space-flight is currently pathetic and we can’t survive enough of it even to get to Mars – a place that has already had its ecological catastrophe. We may have to be considerably not-human to leave.

    Mexico is too hard on Russell, a man with a sad childhood and of whom one of his 5 ex-wives declared ‘Bertie’s problem was he couldn’t keep it up long enough’. Like us, Russell despaired of politics and politicians, and was on the streets protesting before some of us were born.

    The fight here is not against rationality (a state none of us know) but barking irrationality. Thermodynamics has moved on from the heat death of the universe to concern with what might or will work and what just can’t (Deutsche’s ‘constructor theory’).

    We have managed constitutional change in the past and it is very obvious this is what we need now. The major block to this is that we refuse to accept how disgusting we have been. We need an end to the Man Age, recognising at least half our species has been dominated and abused just because the other half punches better. If we have been (and continue) that pathetic, what else have we been doing? How disgusting are the rich, how dire are we as lackeys of them? How do we stop?

  35. impermanence

    The collapse has already ocurred. What you are witnessing now is the response to the collapse.

    Incredibly, people do not recognize this as the case, but, then again, they never do.

    You are already beginning to see the nacient new order beginning to emerge in many areas, e.g., holisitic health care, sustainable practices of all types with a common theme of de-centralisation.

    In twenty or thirty years, people will look back at this time as being the depths of the second great depression.

  36. Kurt Sperry

    Good and thought provoking discussion here. I really appreciate the depth and breadth of thought that can be found in these digressions.

    Hedges always makes me think, he’s currently pretty dark reading but he buoyed me through Occupy too, having seen and described how tipping points for the better can occur seemingly spontaneously and completely unpredictably.

  37. tongorad

    I think environmental gloom and doomers are a non-starter for the working class. So you want to take away my working class food, one of the few things I’m allowed to enjoy, and nibble on twigs and leaves?
    The neoliberals are serving up a bogus prosperity gospel that will not be defeated by the likes of Mr Vinegar-Tits himself, Chris Hedges. In fact, I think environmentalism will only serve to quicken the pace of facism, as the psychology of it harmonizes with the idea of an Other that we need guard or protect ourselves against. And the austerity angle too (those working class have had it too good, they need to do what’s good for them).
    If the left can’t articulate a positive vision, then it has nothing for the working class.

  38. Paul Tioxon

    “Mankind is an ambulant pus across the face of the earth”.

    Ian McHarg, author of “DESIGN WITH NATURE”, his opening words of his standard lecture on the idiocy of greed driven attempts at economic development.

    He helped spur what became the first EARTH DAY IN 1970.

    “Not knowing who would ultimately agree to come to Philadelphia during Earth Week to speak, the Committee issued multiple invitations for speakers. To their surprise almost everyone who was invited by the Committee accepted. Among them were consumer protection activist and author of “Unsafe at any Speed,” Ralph Nader; Landscape Architect and author of “Design with Nature,” Ian McHarg; Nobel prize-winning Harvard Biochemist, George Wald; U.S. Senate Minority Leader, Hugh Scott; bacteriologist, Rene Dubois; climatologist Helmet Landsberg; economist, Kenneth Boulding; artist, writer and sociologist, John McHale; population biologist and author of The Population Bomb, Paul Ehrlich; Atomic Energy Commission Chairman, Ralph Lapp; hydrologist Luna Leopold; Urban Planner and author Lewis Mumford; Philosopher and author, Alan Watts; Ecologist, Kenneth Watt; Poet, Allen Ginsberg; and Frank Herbert, author of Dune.”

  39. RBHoughton

    This article has attracted many more comments than usual. I should like to have my two cents worth too:

    We have been stimulating our natural acquisitiveness for a couple centuries. Its not just politicians legislating the promotion of greed – limited liability; companies as persons – but philosophers like Jeremy Bentham et al, who expound the rationale adopted by great capitalists that “whatever is commercially right cannot be morally wrong.” I am indebted to Raymond Baker (in ‘Capitalism’s Achilles Heel’) for that insight

    There is no prospect of the churches mitigating this as they somewhat did in 19th century. They are all property and investment companies now. They do employ socially-responsible people like Father Berrigan who dissent and wish to change the system. These people are at the grass roots and could be a powerful force for change.

    However, I also have confidence in scientists and engineers because of their commitment to truth and their recognition of the limits of a finite and dynamic planet. The are often ensnared in the financial chains of the academies and research companies. I also honour farmers.

    Yves mentions the despicable person who sees the state of the planet as his children’s problem. These chaps are mainly from the professional class that forms the army of capitalism – all accountants, most economists and many lawyers. Those people have a case to answer.

    Father Berrigan is right – we ordinary little people will have to shoulder the burden that our representatives have failed to carry. I expect that will be by mass protest.

  40. Tom Paradise

    I have for some time believed that one of the great challenges facing our generation here in North America is the necessity to develop Alaskan and Yukon water supplies to move this water south along the Rocky Mountain trench to bring vast new water supply to the great plains of Canada and the United States, the Great Lakes, the Intermountain west, California, Texas and northern Mexico. The North American Water and Power Alliance was conceived and engineered in the 1960s on behalf of visionaries in congress and JFK. The only reason we have such a tremendous physically productive economy in California today is that our grandfathers had the vision to develop the great water projects that make California and Arizona so productive today. If we are to sustain our civilization in the arid west, it is essential that we develop NAWAPA.

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