Gaius Publius: Our Communities Are Scaled and Built for a Climate That No Longer Exists

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By Gaius Publius, a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States and frequent contributor to DownWithTyranny, digby, Truthout, and Naked Capitalism. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius, Tumblr and Facebook. GP article archive  here. Originally published at DownWithTyranny

“Landslides forced the closure of Kuhio Highway from the area north of Hanalei known as Waikoko to the end of the road at Haena. That left residents and tourists stranded with no way in or out… This home was in the path of one of those slides in Wainiha” (source).
This is your periodic reminder that:

  • The global warming wolf is already at the door, and
  • The people who rule this world will never drive him away.

Which means:

  • People who want to fix this problem will have to use force. That’s just a fact.

If you remember nothing else from this piece, remember this. Force them to fix it or remove their control — those are the only choices for strong, effective climate action, and given the state of our government, wholly captured by wealth and its interests, those two options are the same.

We can despair or take control. Those are the choices. It’s going to take force to fix this.

The Global Warming Wolf Is at the Door

Kauai is one of the wettest islands in the Hawaiian Island chain. Its residents have experienced devastating hurricanes, but nothing like the torrent of rain that fell last April 14 and 15.

From the LA Times (emphasis added):

Since the 1940s, the Hawaiian island of Kauai has endured two tsunamis and two hurricanes, but locals say they have never experienced anything like the thunderstorm that drenched the island this month.

“The rain gauge in Hanalei broke at 28 inches within 24 hours,” said state Rep. Nadine Nakamura of the North Shore community. “In a neighboring valley, their rain gauge showed 44 inches within 24 hours. It’s off the charts.”

Actually, it was even worse. This week the National Weather Service said nearly 50 inches of rain fell in 24 hours.

Now, as Kauai continues to recover, scientists warn that this deluge on April 14 and 15 was something new — the first major storm in Hawaii linked to climate change.

“The flooding on Kauai is consistent with an extreme rainfall that comes with a warmer atmosphere,” said Chip Fletcher, a leading expert on the impact of climate change on Pacific island communities.

According to Kawika Winter, a natural resource manager, “This is the most severe rain event [in Hawaii] that we know about since records started being kept in 1905…. Climate change is affecting us, and has been for some time. There are striking similarities with the flooding that we experienced on Kauai and the recent flooding in California. The warmer atmosphere is holding more moisture and that builds up until it meets with cold dry air, creating this massive unstable system, which causes what some meteorologists are now referring to as a ‘rain bomb.'”

As Chip Fletcher, a professor at the University of Hawaii, put it, “Just recognize that we’re moving into a new climate, and our communities are scaled and built for a climate that no longer exists.”

Meanwhile, Atmospheric CO2 Is Now Above 410 ppm

The climate organization was founded in 2007, when the goalwas to reduce atmospheric CO2 from 385 ppm to 350 ppm, a target already well above the range of atmospheric CO2 for the last 5 million years.

Since the founding of 350org, atmospheric CO2 touched 400 ppm in 2013 and breached it solidly in 2014. Last year, atmospheric CO2 touched 410 ppm and this year will breach it solidly. Note in the animation below, CO2 reaches its peak in May. This year, CO2 reached 410 ppm in March, with May still two months ahead.

Note also that this is average monthly data. The weekly averages are much worse. According to NOAA, in the week beginning April 22 the weekly average was 411.68, with one daily average spiking above 412.

The increase is relentless, and if you do the math, it appears to be accelerating. In 2015, the Scripps Institute at UCSD wrote (emphasis mine):

The rate of growth in carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere has accelerated since the beginnings of the Keeling Curve. The rate has gone from about 0.75 parts per million (ppm)/yr in 1959 to about 2.25ppm/yr today.

That was written in 2015. The recent increase in CO2 from 400 ppm to 410 ppm, which occurred between 2014 and 2018, took just 4 years, at a rate of 2.50 ppm/year. This is already significantly higher than the rate of 2.25 ppm/year noted by the Scripps Institute in 2015. For comparison, consider that the rate of increase in 1959 was just 0.75 ppm/year.

It’s Going to Take Force

If there’s any hope at all, it’s going to take force to fix this problem. Mayer Hillman, an 86-year-old fellow emeritus of the Policy Studies Institute, and a man renowned for his forward-looking prescriptions, has famously said, in effect, it’s over.

Why does he say that? “Standing in the way is capitalism. Can you imagine the global airline industry being dismantled when hundreds of new runways are being built right now all over the world? It’s almost as if we’re deliberately attempting to defy nature. We’re doing the reverse of what we should be doing, with everybody’s silent acquiescence, and nobody’s batting an eyelid.”

It’s true that many are complacent, and true as well that a strong structural force stands in the way (in my view, the pathological greed of the very very rich). But unlike Hillman, I see a clash of forces on the horizon, not no action at all.

Today, people are either complacent (“We have time; the next generation will help out”) or resigned (“It’s not bad now, so nobody’s doing anything”). What happens when it gets “bad now”? What happens when this generation realizes it’s paying the price today, with thisgeneration’s money and this generation’s lives? What happens when this war “comes home,” as the other one will as well?

What happens when, in Vietnam Era terms, the whole of a generation is directly affected by the self-serving policy of its elites, and the bodies of the victims pile higher and higher? As that era taught us, complacency turns quickly to anger and conflict.

Now consider what happens when the generation affected is global, encompassing everyone alive today? Expect a battle that will enter the books as the greatest global war ever fought.

Now Is the Time. Non-Violence Is the Way.

As we move forward, my suggestion is this. If you’re among those who haven’t given up, start that battle now, and wage it non violently. Let the violence of the wealthy and their governments remove the last veil of legitimacy from their actions, and let your non-violence entice their enemies to join you. If both sides’ combatants are violent, the ensuing chaos will make any further solution completely impossible. in this conflict, when violence erupts on all sides, it truly is Game Over.

Some global warming cannot now be prevented; too much is “baked in” already for a return to Holocene days, when a predictable human-friendly climate arrived, after hundreds of thousands of years, to give us agriculture and the iPhone. Much of the gift of that climate is going to be lost forever.

But not all of it. With effective applications of force, global warming can be made to stop at a far friendlier place than it otherwise would if carbon emissions are allowed to continue unchecked.

After all, we’ll either stop of be stopped. The natural stopping place for human-caused global warming sans deliberate intervention, is after our species is either pre-industrial … or extinct. That’s not a friendly place at all.

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  1. Scott

    As quoted in the article, Hillman posits that capitalism is preventing action against climate change. I’m not sure I agree. The collapse of the Soviet Union led to a decline in industrial activities (and GHG emissions) in Eastern Europe; many of these countries, now under capitalist governments still haven’t matched their pollution outputs under communism.

    Rather, we should look at the consumer-culture as a major part of the problem. Using the airline example, airlines aren’t the only ones who would resist destroying runways. People who travel for business and pleasure wouldn’t want to see them eliminated. People like travel, and meat, and large houses and cars. We are under continual societal pressure to have more to increase our living standards. We must address these if we are going to address the problems posed by climate change.

    1. funemployed

      We could all have nice things if there weren’t so many of us (or the planet was lots bigger). We could also be happier with what we got if we weren’t all trying to fill the holes in our souls with useless crap and live up to weird cultural status markers.

      Since moving to OH, I’ve been fascinated by the lawns. They are friggen ginormous here. I mean, why, on god’s green earth, would anyone want four acres of mowed grass surrounding their personal residence, particularly since mowing seems to be, for the most part, the only activity the lawns are regularly used for?

      Think of all the wonderful beautiful things you could do with four acres, or of all the wonderful beautiful things that would happen if you just left four acres alone, never mind how wasteful and toxic our current lawning practices are.

      As far as I can tell, the only proximate reason for this madness is that the size of a lawn and it’s similarity in appearance to astroturf seems to be generally assumed to be the best available indicator of a person or family’s moral worth. (Lawn heretics such as myself get very suspicious and uncomfortable reactions when we even raise the question of the real value and cost of lawns – so I can only assume it’s some sort of strange morality thing).

      1. Karen

        Actually, I read somewhere that’s exactly how lawns came to be; English gentry used them as a signal of extreme affluence back in the days when the grass had to be hand clipped. Some years ago I tried to allow my good-sized lawn at the edge of a small housing development (here in live-free-or-die NH) go to pasture. It was actually quite beautiful, and I mowed the area around the house to keep things looking tidy. Still, I could sense that everyone thought I was a radical…when the owner moved back in the lawn came back!

        1. a different chris

          Yes, and said owner rode his mower around for an hour, said “my that looks nice” and went back into the house. Or probably had somebody else do it and he/she only saw it as they drove up their driveway.

          I don’t know what we can do, really. People are idiots. Even the “looks nice”, well that’s programming/marketing not some inherent value.

      2. johnnygl

        I’m often in a battle with my wife and in laws who demand short, carpet-like green grass. My favored arguments are, “what does your grass do for you? Does it feed you? Do you want to keep cows? Let’s put fruit and nut-bearing plants in so that the land can work for us instead.”

        I haven’t exactly won them over, but i’ve at least got them to basically realize their attachment makes no sense and comes from an obsession with neatness and making the outside of the house look like the inside.

        Recent immigrants can be the worst…they seem to want to out-american the americans. The USA has sold them on the image of suburban life so much that they want to come here and create it. It’s going to take years of work to undo the marketing of america that has gone on for decades.

        1. JohnnySacks

          We cut the diseased trees the town planted along the sidewalk in front of our house and replaced them with pear trees as a big FU to that sh#t. The damn town planted some type of pear tree on the other side that flowers crazy but the fruit are pea sized and taste like crap.

          Why someone would buy, plant, and tend any type of flowering non-fruiting crap tree is a mystery to me. Then to go out during harvest time and pay $2.50 a pound for fresh peaches, the stupid-easiest fruit to grow. Mainstream America is in for a rude awakening now that the lessons of the depression era are buried with the people who lived through it.

          1. Arthur Dent

            The town pear tree trees are probably an ornamental callery pear that is non-native from Asia and has little to no wildlife value. The destruction of native plant species to create suburbs and industrial farms is a primary reason why pollinators are stressed and many species are struggling to survive.

            BTW – gas powered lawnmowers, leaf blowers etc. are a significant air pollution contributor:

            1. Arthur Dent

              BTW – we have taken a bunch of lawn out and planted a variety of native plants in its place. Our smaller lawn is easily mowed in about 30-40 minutes using an electric Kobalt lawnmower.

              The mower is quiet – we do the lawn and our neighbors don’t even know its being mowed. Its about the same degree of noise as a hand-held hair dryer. You can easily have a conversation with someone while it is running. There are no fumes, gasoline etc. A single charge of the two batteries does the entire lawn.

      3. Terence Dodge

        Why four acres of lawn? Fire breaks and fields of fire (assuming no low shrubs for “them” to hide behind ). Ego should be factored in some where. Any pastoral knowledge in the group? Applying holistic land management ( Allan Savory method ) what would or could be supported with in four acres?

      4. Punxsutawney

        4 Acres, oh I can think of many things to do other than a lawn. A variety of trees for one. Why? I like trees. Also, some fruit and nut trees, a garden. Shrubs and small trees that would provide food and shelter for birds. A food producing garden, maybe some hemp, as close to organically managed as possible. Maybe I’d let part of it go back to nature for more wildlife support. So much space, so many possibilities other than grass.

        And yes it was a symbol of wealth. Not just that you could hire someone to cut it, but that you were wealthy enough to take land out of food production.

        1. JohnnySacks

          We have bulldozed apple orchards and farms continuously for the past few decades and replaced them with retail and housing. Is there ever the possibility of bulldozing a shuttered out of business strip mall or building and replacing it with an orchard or farm? Has that EVER been done?

          1. JohnnyGL

            Detroit’s used raised beds on vacant asphalt lots….but I don’t think they’ve bulldozed.

      5. Ellie

        On four acres, one could create a permaculture food forest that would come close to feeding an entire family. Fruit trees, tree nuts, a variety of berries, a large vegetable garden. That’s what I always envision when I see a huge useless lawn that needs to be fed, mowed, and is probably being treated with chemical herbicides and pesticides. It makes me crazy.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          Do the people in these 4-acre-lawn neighborhoods have neighborhood associations? Do they have informal but militant neighborhood busybody police-mobs? If a 4-acre-yard person tried to do something better than a lawn would the neighbors all persecute him/her? Would they call in the police to burn down herm’s permaculture?

          I don’t ever expect to live in such unusual social class circumstances. When I think of “suburban lawn”, I think of a tenth or a twentieth of an acre. Let’s just imagine me living in a house with a ONE acre lawn. And militant lawn-nazi neighbors. The first thing i would do would be to surround my whole yard with a perimeter of friendly and landscape-worthy shoulder-height shrubs . . . foodbearing if possible. I would set them back a little more than a lawn-mowers width from the edges of my property. So first the neighbors would see a tidy lawn strip and then a tidy hedge with maybe free fruit growing on it at the right time of year. I would let the neighborhood kids walk on the lawn strip and pick the free fruit for a few years.

          When the decoy lawn strip and friendly hedge were gotten used-to by the neighbors, then I would start doing step-by-step lawn-reduction activities withIN the friendly hedge. As long as no one noticed, I would push the lawn-reduction activities a little farther. Always keeping any food production looking neat and landscape worthy. I would be trying to make a life, not make a statement.

          1. Ellie

            I like the way you think!

            Every now and then I see an article about a homeowner who tries to grow food in their front yard being both persecuted and prosecuted for it. I have been fortunate to have neighbors who think my front-yard asparagus and tomato plants are attractive. After I retire this summer, I hope to expand the front-yard veggie gardens.

            1. drumlin woodchuckles

              If you build them with a Midwestern-German sense of tidy orderly neatness, will they be better received? It would be unfortunate if more beds ends up crossing some unwritten threshhold which brings on a total hate response for any front yard gardens at all.

    2. John

      “The collapse of the Soviet Union led to a decline in industrial activities (and GHG emissions) in Eastern Europe; many of these countries, now under capitalist governments still haven’t matched their pollution outputs under communism.”

      That’s because their economic outputs haven’t reached what they were under communism.

      “Rather, we should look at the consumer-culture as a major part of the problem.”

      Consumer culture is the product of the capitalist system brainwashing its subjects (through advertising) so that they act in ways to keep the system going (spending all the money they possibly can).

      Cuba has by far the lowest carbon footprint per person of all of the moderately developed nations. The only way we could actually avoid global warming is through a command economy geared towards lowering GHG emissions as much as possible. If we really wanted to, we could drastically reduce these emissions, but everyone would have to see a fall in material living standards. Assuming we really believed in socialism, as the Russian people did during World War II, we might be willing to make such sacrifices. Definitely not with the current mindset though, and that would take decades to change. But unfortunately, we don’t have time for that.

      1. Amfortas the Hippie

        I remember reading(but can’t find it now) about how after the collapse of the ussr, and cuba’s resulting famine, and their consequent ag/land reform, that there was a global shortage of mules.
        because cuba bought them all.
        I always thought that was remarkable.
        but as an Organic Ag guy for 45 years(since I could walk, really), I can say with some confidence that such difficult but reasonable solutions will never be implemented on a large enough scale to make a difference.
        …not because people are evil, but because they are almost mindless, wandering through life in a sort of trance state….which allows the Big Boys to do as they please.

        “If first you rid yourself of hope and fear
        You have dismayed the tyrant’s wrath:
        But whosoever quakes in fear or hope,
        Drifting and losing his mastery,
        Has cast away his shield, has left his place,
        And binds the chain with which he will be bound.”-Boethius

      2. Webstir

        “Consumer culture is the product of the capitalist system brainwashing its subjects (through advertising) so that they act in ways to keep the system going (spending all the money they possibly can).”

        So many have taken a bullet to the head …

        This time the bullet cold rocked ya
        A yellow ribbon instead of a swastika
        Nothin’ proper about ya propaganda
        Fools follow rules when the set commands ya
        Said it was blue, when ya blood was red
        That’s how ya got a bullet blasted through ya head
        Blasted through ya head, blasted through ya head
        I give a shout out to the living dead
        Who stood and watched as the feds cold centralized
        So serene on the screen, you was mesmerized
        Cellular phones, soundin a death tone
        Corporations cold turn ya to stone before ya realize
        They load the clip in, omnicolor
        Said they pack the nine, they fire it at prime time
        They sleeping gas, every home just like Alcatraz
        And (family bloggers) lost their minds!

      3. Grumpy Engineer

        Cuba also has the friendliest climate of all “moderately developed nations”. Temperatures there typically range between 65 and 89 degF. Year round. The amount of energy consumed for heating is very low, even in the “cold” winter months.

        Now if you look at a place like Toronto, you’ll see that temperatures typically vary from 12 to 80 degF over the course of a year. In Fargo, ND, temperatures typically vary from -2 to +82 degF. The amount of energy consumed for heating in these cities is enormous. Regardless of whether Toronto and Fargo operate under a capitalist system or a socialist one, their per-capita use of energy will NEVER be as low as it is in Cuba. Their weather precludes it.

        Unless, of course, one’s definition of “making sacrifices” includes freezing to death.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          I remember noting California as using half the electricity per capita as the rest of the country.
          You noted that California has a year-round mild climate which allows them to get away with that.
          It occurs to me that parts of California ( Imperial Valley, Sacremento and other such cities, the Central Valley, etc.) get hot enough in the summer to where they use a lot of air conditioning, I assume. ( Would I be wrong?)

          If I am right about that, then the summer hot-zones of California deserve to be studied in isolation during Air Conditioning Season to see if they are using as much electricity per capita during the Air Conditioning Months as other parts of the country during Air Conditioning Months. If the California hot-zones are STILL using less electricity per capita during Air Conditioning Season than other places during Air Conditioning Season, then those parts of California still have something to teach us about using less electricity per capita.

          1. Grumpy Engineer

            On average in the US, it takes more electricity to provide heat during the winter than it does to provide AC in the summer. It’s at least 10% more. You hear more about peak power woes during the summer because the high temperatures make it difficult to run power generation equipment at “full throttle” without overheating it, but actual electricity generation is greatly in the winter.

            But more significantly, that’s just the electricity portion. If you also look at the fuel oil, propane, and natural gas that people burn directly for heat during, the total carbon emissions are significantly higher during winter. It’s easily 40% higher.

            Check out these charts from the EIA that cover natural gas consumption: In the second chart, you’ll see total consumption vs. time. There is a small peak at summer (for AC) and a huge peak at winter (for heating). I suspect the charts for propane and heating oil are even more extreme since they aren’t used for power generation and see very little summer demand, but alas, I cannot find them.

            And no, there aren’t any great lessons to be learned from California. Sure, the state has some eastern regions that get pretty hot, but hardly anybody lives there. Most of the population lives on the coast. And if I look at temperatures for LA, San Diego, and San Francisco, where a great many people live, I see little point in AC. It’s too cool.


        2. Lila

          If Toronto has that variation, consider Saskatoon or Edmonton. Our “continental climate” shows an even larger temperature spread. Probably no excuse for Moe’s head-in-the-sands(tarsands?) attitude towards climate change, but still…

        3. Adam Eran

          Not sure about the ultimate climate cost, but Germany’s “passivehaus” standard does not require any heating or cooling…just lots of insulation.

          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            Could one retro-passivize the houses in Toronto? At least part way?

            One could at least super-insulate them and maybe better-windowize them and put in air-to-air heat exchangers to keep most of the heat indoors even as one is exchanging enough air to avoid “sick building syndrome”.

            I bet houses in the intemperate zone could be kept pleasant and livable through the winter for less energy cost than is usually assumed.

            1. AEL

              Insulating a home only gets you so far. To get really good insulation you need to restrict air flow (which causes problems because we need oxygen coming in and carbon dioxide and other noxious gasses to leave) or use a heat exchanger between the air coming in and air going out. Alas, a heat exchanger causes problems because warm air carries a lot more water than cold air. Thus you can get fungi and molds growing inside the house making it unlivable. It is very difficult to design a completely passive system that works year after year in conditions that range from -40 to +40.

    3. Lord Koos

      We can blame consumer culture, sure, but who created and marketed that culture? I view it more as a failure of leadership.

  2. John

    Preventing climate change is completely incompatible with capitalism. The only way we could reduce our emissions is by drastically reducing consumption, which would cause huge a huge fall in GDP and, subsequently, employment. And you’d have to get all of the countries to do this, which would be really tough because of the profits that would come from picking up the industrial slack where everyone else left off.

    And even if aliens came from the sky and demanding we lower our GHG emissions in order to save ourselves, I’m not sure if we could. Massive amounts of GHG emissions will be needed to transition to economies based on renewable energy, sustainable infrastructure, and electric cars (not to mention all of the mining and waste that would result).

    1. Massinissa

      “Electric cars”

      I dont think electric cars would actually be that much better than regular cars… Part of the problem is many countries have infrastructure built around the car in the first place rather than public transportation…

    2. Ray Phenicie

      GDP does not have to always be on the rise for the national economy to remain healthy, Japan is the main example here. Also, public service is the main element in the Job Guarantee program being discussed widely in discussions that center around Senator Bernie Sanders’ (and others’) proposal to fund employment in community rebuilding with federal funding.Workers offer their services to replenish the environment, work in community centers, schools, and libraries and receive in return a solid living wage and decent benefit package. The nature of this employment does not drain down our natural resources but helps to restore the environment. There is the added benefit in that workers have income if they want to sign up for the program.

      Further, I do not buy into your vision wherein more emissions are required to build new technologies. The factories of tomorrow do not have be built on the span of environmental destruction; we have enough fundamental science right now to guide engineers in building a greener factory production system.

      Finally, I grow weary of criticisms that scrounge for undesirable human characteristics and assign those behaviors to a system. The system is as good or bad as the people who work in it, manage its production resources and inhabit it. The purpose of law is not to purify the human psyche but rather to guide and channel human behavior. Neoliberalism is the philosophy guiding the current renditions of vulture capitalism. Martha McCluskey in a brilliant analysis “Efficiency and Social Citizenship: Challenging the Neoliberal Attack on the Welfare State, states that:

      “Neoliberalism” refers to the contemporary reincarnation of the nineteenth-century “laissez-faire” liberalism that advanced the primacy of “the market” over “government regulation.” . . . [It is] a discourse masking and promoting political and economic subordination based on race and class.

      Until an entirely new system of production and financial processes are put in place, lets make the current system work for the vast majority of the populace. Let’s start by recapturing our government and the instituting democracy throughout the land.

    3. Arthur Dent

      I disagree. I think the bigger issue is that our capitalism has many large oligopolies and well-funded lobbyists that lock in status quo systems. The biggest hindrance to installed solar power in residences in many locales is the inability to sell power back to the grid because the utility companies don’t want to buy it.

      There were existing roads in 1900 for horse and carriage, so the new car companies were able to piggy-back on the existing infrastructure and eliminated the massive waste problem of horsecrap as well as importation of food for the horses. Of course, that in turn caused new air pollution problems but the introduction of legislation requiring improved emissions controls on cars and banned leaded gasoline made dramatic improvements there quite quickly.

      So I disagree that capitalism and environmental improvement don’t go together. I think it is am tter of societal choice, and then the capitalists go about providing solutions.

  3. Kevin C Smith

    For millennia, mankind lived in an atmosphere of CO2 ~280 ppm, and was well adapted to that.
    In the past ~150 years the CO2 has risen to ~ 410 ppm.
    Does anyone know a pulmonary physiologist who can tell us what the consequences [if any] are of this 46% increase in the CO2 we breathe? These levels are far below that which would cause gross hypercapnia, but I wonder if they could affect, for example, bone health in susceptible populations.

      1. Susan the other

        Thanks for this link. 300ppm would be good but we won’t see that anytime soon. We need force, research, action and mobilization because we are in a fight for our lives against… capitalism. And all our president does is tweet his pants. We must be politic enough to remember that capital only implies profits and those profits are assumed to be denominated in money. There is another source of capital, clearly. It’s the environment. The preservation of the environment. Now… if financial capitalism would have an epiphany and slam on the brakes and focus its resources on CO2 cleanup and ocean cleanup and water cleanup and soil cleanup and agricultural clean up… if.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          Perhaps people will have to do several things at once and concurrently. Millions of suburban households could partway live on the natural yield from the natural capital of their house and yard . . . . doing their own solar-powered home heating and cooling, harvesting and storing thousands of gallons of their own roofwater, growing some of their own food in their own yard, processing/handling their own terminally digested food-waste with their own composting toilets, etc.

          If the “principles” of biophysical economics are reality-based descriptions of true facts and processes in nature, then suburban householders can apply them without permission from society or the economystics, and can take their profit in the form of subsistence-survival service return, without translating that return into-and-then-back-out-of money at all.

          1. Harold

            Roof water can be contaminated by dust with toxic or bacterial substances, I understand. But they could do something, it is true. Solar energy is a good thing, as is reducing lawns to a minimum.

            I don’t think microfarming is practical — vegetables take up a huge amount of space and are very labor intensive. I think curbing sprawl & returning to having medium sized farms in close proximity to cities might be a better idea — and also community gardens. Though I doubt it is going to happen.

            1. drumlin woodchuckles

              Somewhere, either in a permaculture book or somewhere else, I read about and saw a little diagram for . . . a system whereby rainwater off the roof first began filling a small bucket at the end of a lever-arm. When the bucket was full enough, it began falling and pulling up the arm which diverted any further water into the storage tank-of-desire. The trick was to know how much water had to flow off the roof before it could be considered washed off enough to store any further water falling on the roof. And size the bucket for that much water, plus a safety margin.

              If I were actually in a position to try roofwater storage, I would try finding out about and applying a system like that for diverting away the first “roof washings” at the start of the storm.

              Dense-pack intensive micro-farming looks practical to me as I read about it from a distance . . . if one is willing to do the work. But I have only done a little of it as a hobby so I don’t really know. But since we have a hundred million Suburbistanis already living in many thousands of square miles of Suburbistan . . . right there on site to provide the labor-intensive labor force if they should decide to do super-dense gardening, I still imagine it to be worth trying to see.

              There are groups and people who claim to be experts at High Input High Output Horticulture. It all reads inspiringly to me and seems plausibly hopeful.


              Another reason for suburbistanis to do highly-informed individual/family gardening is to get some produce with a better nutrient profile than produce grown on the average mineral-depleted Commercial Soil. Here is a website which claims to be about that concept, delivered in a supposedly easier-to-handle format than the years and volumes of literature by which some people learn how to do this for themselves.

              Of course people could try doing this on community gardens as well, but I see no reason to focus on community gardens only, or if community gardens are not possible, to give up on even trying personal foodgrowing.

              1. Harold

                I am attracted to the idea, but also skeptical. Not but what I don’t approve of Victory Gardens. I do.

                1. drumlin woodchuckles

                  Books have been written on growing some food in small spaces. Here is an old classic.

                  Recently books have been written about the high density hard labor opposite of permaculture . . . . the so-called Biodynamic French-Intensive method. One might view it as high-compression gardening. It takes a lot of work and a lot of inputs. But it is supposed to yield a lot of food for all that work and inputting.

                  Someone else within the Ecology Action of the Midpeninsula Group wrote a book about how to grow a death-preventing bare-subsistence diet from a 1,000 foot high-compression bio-intensive garden.

                  My own garden produces more fun than food. I can’t say for sure if these books “work”. I can only say that they read real fun and inspiring. If I ever get disciplined enough to produce serious food from my hobby fun garden, I will start bragging about it to show what I have proven to be possible. Till then, I can only say that I think these books may be worth a look.

  4. Tomonthebeach

    It’s going to take force to fix this.

    Indeed, one way or another, the forces of man or nature will restore homeostasis to the planet. Currently, it looks like change is entirely in the hands of nature.

    Since the infestation of humans is the primary cause of climate change, the “force” of nature may restore the harmony that once defined our weather patterns, ensured fertile and productive farming, and delivered nutrition to the human species. Now some farmland is turning to sand while other fields are being washed out to sea. Seeds are drowning in their planted fields as protective forests set themselves ablaze – you get the picture (or watch it on TV).

    Thus, if political force does not curtail mankind despoiling its own nest, nature’s force will, as it always does, animate the four horsemen of the apocalypse to thin out the herd until the human race loses its capacity to poison itself.

    1. pretzelattack

      agree with the conclusion, but the cause is fossil fuel emissions, we need to address that if we have any hope at all–and we need to mitigate the damage while adapting, just accepting that business as usual will run its course is suicidal.

      1. Anon

        Not to distract from your comment, but the planet (Earth) does not move toward “homeostasis”. It’s always changing to a new “equilibrium” in response to environmental events. The vast sea algae created oxygen (through photosynthesis) that allowed the evolution of higher life forms (plants/animals) that were (in some cases) eliminated by the planet errupting (volcanoes) or being shocked by space objects (asteroids), or the variation in weather patterns (climate change) making cultural agriculture a nebulous proposition for millennials. Soon there will be a new planetary “order”?

        1. Thomas Hilton

          Nothing you describe here is inconsistent with a homeostatic theory. Thinkaboutit….

  5. thoughtful person

    I agree it appears our elites seem to be planning more for a major die-off and flights to mars than anything else. Don’t expect much help there.

    The author mentions force a good deal and only mentions non-violent action in passing at the conclusion of the piece. Would have been nice to list a few actions.

    I would suggest starting asap to reduce our carbon footprints. Personally my wife and I live in a modest house near our city center, one working from home the other, a short walk. Our work is in renewable energy, and the other sells vegetarian food. We mostly eat vegetarian.

    Next steps might be living communally, getting more involved politically (peoples party?). Maybe we’ll get to the point where we can stay talking action on a municipal level.

    1. Massinissa

      You know, I think I would actually have less of a problem with the creeping authoritarianism being pushed by the elites if it seemed like, you know, they actually had a plan beyond trying to get to New Zealand or Mars before SHTF.

      But instead most of the worlds geopolitical power is concentrated in the hands of visionless neoliberal sharks who understand nothing but wealth accumulation as an ends to itself.

    2. Carla

      @thoughtful: the municipal level is the only place where we can have an impact, IMHO. About 10 years ago, in response to citizen action, the suburb I live in stopped using all pesticides on city-owned land.

  6. Wukchumni

    Our flood of record here happened around xmas of 1955, and it’s easy enough to piece together how far it went, and then visualize all of the new homes and businesses built in it’s path since then, as memory faded fear away.

    I was eating lunch with the oldest guy that’s lived here since he was born in 1931, and he told me that some guy barely got out of his cabin before the torrent took it away and swept it downriver, and to add insult to injury, it caught fire and was a flaming ball of sorts as they lost sight of it in the distance.

    These mega rain storms are quite something, there was one in Japan a year or 2 ago that was a 20-25 inch deluge in 24 hours.

    I mentioned the other day how an overnight 7+ inch rain storm was just the right amount to do more or less a fleet enema on the rivers here, but not do any flooding. 9 inches would have major flooding, 20 inches a catastrophe. 25 inches of rain from say 8k on down, submerged.

    How do you prepare for something like this?

    1. The Rev Kev

      You build on the high ground and not anywhere too close to a river or creek. If you are then located in an area that may be cut off due to flooding, you make sure that you have about a week’s worth of food in the house and think what you would do if your power and phone lines were temporarily cut off. Also, you have cash in the house in case the bank’s ATMs went down and it was all cash only. You don’t have to be a prepper but common sense precautions never go astray. We experienced all this during massive floods in our region back in 2011.
      Man, I can only imagine what was going through that guy’s mind as his cabin took off down the river in a blaze of glory. Maybe the words ‘Why me?’

      1. Expat2uruguay

        I’m not so sure that you really need a week’s worth of food. I remember somebody posting about how you would have all of this food in cans and then you would rotate it so that you always had fresh stuff. Which meant you were eating out of cans all the time while you were waiting for the Apocalypse. That just didn’t sound very useful. And then there’s the idea that if you don’t have enough food you’ll try to go out there to get it and could get killed.

        I did a political fast a few years ago where I didn’t eat for 12 days, water only. People don’t realize that if you have water, you could survive for two weeks without food.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          You could also store seeds/ beans/ grains and keep using the oldest as you kept getting newer, for an ever-full-level storage being always rotated.

          The grains/beans/seeds could be sprouted for fresh micro-vegetables. No need to be strictly and only limited to cans.

          And if you had a yard you could grow fresh fruit.

          1. Mrs. Bob

            I store some grains and have heard of micro grains and sprouts of course but didn’t think to put it together like this. Thanks. My sister in law grew large dandelions on purpose to eat. Not just the scrawny kind found in most lawns.

    2. KYrocky

      “Flood of record” as used above means the biggest flood a white man was around to make note of.

      There is another type of flood, a paleo-flood, which is determined based on the geologic record and morphology of the area. Odds are that there have been many, many larger floods exceeding the modern floods of record in the last 10,000 years or so. The historical record has been used to forecast flood probabilities, and it is based on records of measurements and regression analysis, but it has always ignored the really big ancient floods as statistically irrelevant for the short term window of a 100-yr event.

      The common tool to address this really big one is called the probable maximum precipitation, or the PMP. As a rule of thumb it is about 3 to 4 times bigger than the 100-year storm rainfall event. In the Houston area a 100-yr rainfall would be about 13 inches in a day, the PMP is about 32 inches in a day. They had almost 55 inches in two days.

      The 100-yr storm, as it has been calculated, is essentially obsolete today. Unfortunately, until we develop a data set to large to ignore, no person in reasonable change looks to be willing to tackle this issue to any meaningful degree. The damage to our coastal communities that is coming is understood and yet next to nothing is changing. The threat to our inland communities and their built forms is getting virtually no study. Adapting to and preparing for change will be expensive, will frighten some, and will be resisted by many, if not most people.

  7. Sober Eastern European

    We are done for. It is best to accept it. No revolution is coming to save us from the Elites. I suspect if anything they are planning to get rid of a lot of us quite soon and live in their psychopath utopia.

    I used to work in palliative care and I found the people who accept their fate die peacefully. Those who dont suffer needlessly. In some situations hope leads to pain.

    Well I have accepted my fate. I live in the moment and I live in mourning of our beautiful planet and its fantastic creatures. Every day with my loved ones feel like a gift from nature. Thats the only thing left to do to prevent insanity and depression.

  8. Brooklin Bridge

    It would be interesting to take a poll in the wealthier parts of Houston Texas asking what resident think about GW now and if recent weather events have in any way changed their thinking. Such a poll might provide some insight into what lies ahead in terms of the likelihood of our bankers and VC’s and captains of service industries deciding it’s time for their political marionettes to drastically change course on GW policy before (assuming there still is a before) it’s entirely too late.

    Part of the problem with this Gordian knot is that these people are part of and derive their power from a trans national economic and military structure that continues to feel far more threatened by efforts to mitigate GW than the contrary. Instead of combating the issue, they focus on carving out tiny enclaves of safe haven for their own survival in enduring it.

  9. Jim Haygood

    From California Weather Blog:

    Between December 1861 and January 1862, the nascent state of California experienced a truly extraordinary meteorological event: a more than 40-day long onslaught of extremely moist “atmospheric river” storms that led to widespread inundation on a massive scale.

    Newspaper reports and personal journals suggest that nearly every river, stream, and creek between central Oregon and the Mexican border experienced significant flooding during this event, which brought dozens of inches of rain even to California’s drier low-lying coastal areas over the course of just a few weeks, and well over 100 inches of rain (over 8 feet) along the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada over a two month period.

    The Central Valley was transformed into a 25-mile wide, 300-mile long inland sea as deep as 20 feet in some places; newly-elected governor Leland Stanford was transported to his January inauguration at the state capitol via rowboat through the streets of Sacramento shortly before the state legislature made the decision to temporarily relocate to San Francisco. Vast swaths of land in Los Angeles and Orange counties were underwater—land that is now heavily urbanized, and home to millions of Californians.

    Who knew that global warming was eating our lunch back in Mark Twain’s time?

    It is simply idle to extrapolate a hundred years of statistics about a natural process, when thousands of years of data would be needed to identify secular trends. Makes good grist for the mill for alarmists with axes to grind, though. *yawn*

    1. Lee

      California has perhaps the most heavily engineered fresh water system in the world. Before that, the central valley was a vast wetland. People could claim great tracts of land if they could muster the wherewithal, mostly in the form of Chinese labor, to drain and secure the land with levies.

      I recall learning about a historical CA practice of individuals being able to claim land by driving a wagon over it. In one instance, a fellow mounted a wagon on a boat and thereby claimed many thousands of acre. Whether he sold or developed these properties, I do not know. I learned this in a course on CA environmental history I took some years ago and the mere thought of trying to dig up the source makes me want to take a nap. ; )

    2. Anon

      Actually, Global warming wasn’t eating our lunch in Mark Twain’s time (mid-19th Century). The flood of 1861-62 was actually a typical (though rare) atmospheric river event that has been occurring well before the Industrial Carbon age (essentially 1900 and beyond) and the increase in atmospheric CO2.

      The intensity of brief rainstorms (Kauai) is, in fact, a consequence of a warmer climate creating more atmospheric moisture that crashes into a colder air-mass and induces floods that reach above everyone’s eyebrows.

    3. The Rev Kev

      Actually I can see your mistake here. I have read about that event in California back in the 1860s and it was meteorologically speaking a very rare event. With global warming, that could very well be the new norm. You don’t need a straw poll taken here on the subject as time and again I have read commentators talking about the weird-a** weather they they have been experiencing the past few years and the effects on plant-life and animals. We are now starting to experience the effects of global warming but if you do not believe me, I invite you to move to the coastline of your choice.

  10. Brucie A.

    Further to the Mayer Hillman article, Ian Welsh has this article: Making Sure YOU Stay Alive When Millions Are Dying.

    The title is a bit of a misnomer, it’s more about getting the idea into our heads that adaptation is what we need to be most concerned with, rather than stopping the set of environmental problems that will be “like a high-speed train carrying nitroglycerine derailing in the middle of a oil refinery.”; a 2nd article of his actually tackles how one might situate oneself to survive when it comes to it.

    1. JE

      Great article! Glad to see others are reading Mr. Welsh and hopefully taking his points to heart. Political solutions are over, and adapting the best course as the modern world continues with business as usual.

    2. pretzelattack

      if we don’t switch to renewable energy the future is very bleak indeed. the worst consequences are not inevitable, but fatalism will make them inevitable.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        The only way to successfully switch to renewable energy is to lower the use of energy down to the modest levels that renewable energy can meet.

        1. pretzelattack

          maybe nuclear for a stopgap. we have to get off fossil fuels asap. and there is nothing that would stop renewable energy from eventually meeting pretty much all of it, while we also need to consume much less. but the vast majority comes from the consumption in the west, including outsourcing our manufacturing to china then buying the products.

          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            We did not outsource our production to China. Our class-enemy rulers did that. Forcible reconquest of the government would be a needed first step towards reversing that elite-driven forced-outsourcing.

            It took the ruling upper class several decades to outsource much of our production to China. It would take a ruling lower class ( after lower-class conquest of the government) several decades to relocate our production-held-hostage in China back to its rightful home here in America. But if we could forcibly do that, we would again make things here at less carbon emissions per thing made as against the more carbon emissions per thing made in China. Also, making things here instead of importing them from China would retire a lot of merchant ships from service and stop a lot of carbon emissions from the no-longer-active ships.

            The same logic applies to other industries outsourced to other countries. Bring them back home and shut down the shipping involved in shipping clothes, etc. from overseas to here.

            And the foreign countries we take our own production back from? They won’t buy mass quantities of anything from us anymore? Good! More carbon-emissive shipping shut down.

  11. eyebear

    I believe, that, since the advent of the methane gases in the atmosphere, there is no solution in our lifetime possible. No capitalism, communism or anything else. I believe in ‘sexism” now – it’s all fucked up. The C02-thingy will only be important during the next 1000 years – as a natural german I have mixed emotions about that timeframe, as some of the nc-readers might remember… but methane drives us over the cliff during the next 100 or maybe only 50 years. Any inhabitant of Athens or Paris should know that these cities are not inhabitable any more. Remember the heat waves from the 2000’s? Such a city is a ‘heat sink’ because they are lying in a valley: or (in german). Oh, and for those who prefer to take a ride on the ‘autobahn’ during the hot weather … have a look a the last links: concrete cracks up in the heat and railways are interrupted due to distortions of the track. So… any ‘isms’ are way beyond the normal imagination of our human recognition or capabilities. When I look in the garden here behind the tenement, I’m looking into the history of our environment.

  12. Lee

    We live on a low-lying island in the SF bay, some of it is natural formation at 10 to 30 feet above sea level. The major portion is landfill much of it 3 to 4 feet above sea level. By state mandate, and with the collusion of revenue hungry local government, we are now being compelled to build more higher density housing and other developments on shoreline landfill. Local measures to limit development that held the line for years have been overruled by the courts.

    If one consults sea level rise and earthquake liquefaction maps for the area one will see that the developers and their friends in government are selling quicksand futures to thousands of families. Getting on and off the island already produces traffic jams because our connections to the mainland are limited to a tunnel and three bridges that were built to handle the traffic flows of many decades ago.

    1. anon y'mouse

      Lovely Alameda! Sorry, but the wealthy types who are about the only ones who can buy there should know better, given their income and therefore implied education level. That whole island is toast if tsreallyhitstf. Any place too low to even have a mortuary, much less a graveyard, is in deep trouble.
      Perhaps move to Oakland, if you can stand to mingle with -them-, given the way your police follow and harass people who are visibly Oaklanders, and how insular most alamedans are. At least buy an inflatable raft and some instant air cartridges.

      1. Lee

        Alameda did have a large blue collar population. There was redlining but not for decades. Home prices are high but not so high as many bay area communities. Our cops may be a nuisance at times. The black man I live with has been stopped for no good reason a couple of times. Once he borrowed one of our vehicles with a firearm in the glove compartment. They didn’t draw their guns on him upon seeing the gun and they aren’t routinely shooting unarmed people in the streets. My son is a blue collar worker who cannot afford to buy a house in the neighborhood in which he was raised. I’m leaving him the house if he wants to keep it. The well paid geeks of virtuality that are taking over the town are going to need people like him who are well acquainted with the three-dimensional material world.

        Whatever the past and present sins of the city of Alameda, selling quicksand futures is wrong, Which, by the way, is happening in Oakland and elsewhere in the bay area as well.

  13. Jeremy Grimm

    The times of collapse will be chaotic and deadly. The history of those times will be lost to the times after. I believe some humans will survive the collapse.

    Lately I’ve been trying to imagine the nature of the times after and the kind of humans and human society which might cross through the times of collapse. Only the very very lucky and certain special kinds of persons will survive this great population implosion which leads me to wonder what sort of humans will evolve from this chaos selected population. I can’t imagine how the collapse might start or how it might proceed but I strongly suspect few if any sociopaths will survive the anger of the many they have trod upon. There will be great madness and I think the mad will destroy themselves. Strange myths of the collapse times will be told in the after times.

    We are past the point when violent or non-violent action might halt the ongoing Climate Disruption. I am pessimistic about the ability of violence or non-violence to constrain the relentlessness Corporate efforts to push CO2 to 600 ppm or even 800 ppm. But I believe the collapse will start before those levels are reached when the wild weather and rising oceans makes the available fresh water and food grow scarce and there are so very many of us.

    1. Conrad

      I’m not sure ‘lucky’ is the word I’d use to describe the traumatised few who get to witness the collapse of their society and the deaths of most people they know.

      But I think the rest of your comment is spot on.

  14. Tobin Paz

    I’m surprised that peak oil (declining fossil fuel extraction until there is not enough energy to continue) and the relationship between energy and economic growth are hardly ever mentioned. Humanity is going to burn every single last drop of oil and lump of coal that it has access to. In case there are any doubts, look no further than Trudeau and the Alberta tar sands…

    Trudeau Panics After Trans Mountain Tar Sands Pipeline Suspended

    Today Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has convened an emergency cabinet meeting in a bid to save TransMountain, and is in that meeting as we speak. Trudeau is fighting to save the tar sands pipeline despite his stated commitment to the Paris climate accord, a contradiction that has caused leading environmentalists like David Suzuki to brand Trudeau as a liar.

    … and Germany:

    Unused church torn down in Germany to make way for open-pit coal mine

    Open-pit coal mines have become a major political issue in Germany, which still relies on coal for about 40 percent of its energy needs despite pledges to move to cleaner energy sources to meet climate change commitments. Some 25 percent of energy needs are met by power plants fired by high-polluting lignite (brown coal).

    Tar sands are the bottom of the barrel in terms of net energy gained, environmental damage, and greenhouse emissions. Humanity is on a plane that doesn’t have enough fuel to reach it’s destination. Maybe we can toss out the luggage and gain enough altitude to glide as much as possible and avoid a catastrophic landing. But having to first convince the pilots is not a good omen.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Ran Prieur on his blog once supposed that the ruling elites of the future would have thousands or tens of thousands of slaves turning turnstile-style pumps all pooling enough slave power to lift just enough oil to keep the elites gassed up.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      I can’t remember whether Automatic Earth or TripleCrisis made predictions that peak oil might result in a slowing of the amount of CO2 we add to our atmosphere. That might also add an interesting complication to the entire economy end-to-end. Peak oil is not friendly to the long supply lines our Corporations have grown, and it is not friendly to our current food distribution system.

  15. baldski

    These torrential rains are nothing more than heat transfer in my mind. Since the oceans are absorbing so much of the extra heat in our atmosphere, it has to go somewhere. So, more heat, more evaporation and the warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture causing torrential rains. Expect more sever storms.

  16. Knute Rife

    I agree with Stokely Carmichael: For nonviolence to work, your opponent must have a conscience. The 0.01% has none.

  17. schultzzz

    This article was confusing. It starts with “We must use force” and ends with “We must be peaceful.”

    I liked the part about, “pretty soon the average American is going to find her house underwater and then the shit will really hit the fan” – that’s not something that’s talked about nearly enough.

    But here’s what scares me: just because worsening conditions will drive average people to revolt. . . that doesn’t mean they’ll revolt against the targets you choose. Desperate people are the easiest prey for demagogues. For all we know, the average Shmoe will blame Ugandans, 7th Day Adventists, groundhogs, IKEA, or The Dixie Chicks. It all depends on the whims of the demagogue.

    I’m saying ,just because the problems are getting more serious, there’s no reason to believe people will be more serious in their search for solutions than they are right now.

    Stuff will continue to get more tribal and less logical: “Stop burning coal? But then IKEA wins! Those dirty Swedes! They already put my house underwater! I’ll burn twice as much coal, that’ll show those meatball-eaters!!!”

    The pressing question is, how do we make sure people take our side? Blogs like NC, which cover news from all over the ideological spectrum in a non-shrill way, are the best way to persuade, IMO.

    But NC is a tiny minority. . . most lefties are really pathetic at persuading those not already in the choir. And most of the people who are good at persuading people wind up working for ad companies.

    So what the [family blog).

    1. Grumpy Engineer

      Thank you, thank you, thank you for this timely reminder about the risks of revolution. They can be horrifyingly sloppy affairs that cause a great deal of real human suffering, and they usually don’t end up where we really want them to.

      But in terms of “making sure people take our side”, I have one key suggestion to make: Have a solution that actually works. And by that, I mean an energy solution (to keep the lights on and to get people where they need to go) that is clean, reliable, and inexpensive. If you can pull that off, it will take very little effort to persuade people to move to it. Unfortunately, we have no such solutions today.

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