Humanity - gone without a whimper

Humans are the odd duck in the animal kingdom.

We evolved to have a combination of features that allowed us to prosper and thrive over time: being bipedal, having opposable thumbs, and of course our brain which expanded energy towards developing our reasoning and cognitive ability. However, when we dive into the anatomy of man we begin to see the trade offs as well as the detrimental attributes we accumulated.

Humans, for instance, lack the thick fur or blubber/fat deposits necessary to survive in cold climates. I can attest because Minnesota winters are bitter and awful, while our Whitetail Deer seem content. We relied on the hides of other animals to sustain us, as well as the necessity of constructing or utilizing shelter to shield us away from the natural elements. This is merely one example, and while this list could go on there is one trait that is more prevalent for this discussion.

Throughout the animal kingdom, various species have the means of detecting and understanding their environment. This isn't referring to the standard conception of sight or hearing, but something more attune to a connection with nature as well as survival.

Elephants have shown erratic behavior before natural disasters such as tsunamis and earthquakes, hypothesized to be due to low-frequency waves that the elephants can detect. Bees can detect shifts in air pressure and thus adjust their work to avoid incoming storms. Cows, another mammal, have shown a peculiar response to predicting earthquakes as shown in Japan in 2011 when researchers recorded cows having decreased milk production before the earthquake occurred. The theory for reduced milk production is the increased stress levels induced by the pending natural disaster.

What does this mean for humans?

Humans are more distant in their connection with the environment, ranging from a lack of a spiritual connection down to the anatomy of our being. We don't have the means of predicting storms, save for Grandpa's knee that acts up before the big storm. We don't sense an impending earthquake and act accordingly. Humans have come to rely on their cognitive prowess to make up for the deficiencies we have with regards to understanding our environment.

Our reliance on our cognitive abilities, which should be our most powerful tool, will ultimately be our downfall it seems as a species.

Climate change, along with humans' destructive capabilities towards the environment itself, is creating positive feedback loops across the planet. Massive CO2 buildups, the acidification of the oceans, the extinction rate of species slowly mounting, and more are happening under our watch. These events that could severely impact not only us as a species but Earth as a habitable planet go by without concern. Whether it is us being oblivious, being so steeped in ignorance (which is disappointing considering that reasoning is our strongest card in our deck), or arrogance that we can fix it one day somehow, or perhaps simply the result of an uncaring species towards an environment that is a commodity, not a necessity.

We abdicate our responsibility as a species by hiding behind our paradigms of thought. We continue our destructive path throughout the world simply because not only can we, but this misguided rationale of "someone else".

We adhere to a religion of technology. An odd combination of words but the meaning is sound. We have this belief of a technology that will be created that will save us. Or that an individual, a group of individuals, an organization, a government agency will also somehow through magic will save us. This extends far beyond even just our current environmental doomsday that is approaching. We destroy our bodies because we enjoy the taste of certain foods, all the while in the back of our minds believing that something can save us from the consequences. We smoke for 40 years and develop Stage 4 Lung Cancer, only to go to the doctor and wonder what they can do to save us.

The thing is they can't.

We as a species, for all our creative ingenuity and individuality, are quite easy to prod into a herd formation. We all hunker down, with blinders attached to our heads, for no other reason than we ourselves putting them on. For a species built upon reasoning and problem solving, we blindly follow orthodox and lies. We follow rigid structures of bureaucracy and inefficiency, for no other reason than "that is just how it is". Any voice that rises up to say "This isn't working." is either silenced or ignored. That voice looks around to see everyone with their head down, plodding along. A species with such talent and knowledge, reduced to nothing more than lines and lines herded farm animals.

Phrases such as "late-game capitalism" or "ending phases of capitalism" have popped up more frequently in articles I have read. On how everything is slowly collapsing and then from there that somehow people will revolt.

I don't see this. It is hopeful, perhaps desirable even. But, to me, not at all what will happen. To me, the end will not be as revolutionary or even admirable.

The social bonds that adhere everyone to everyone else seem quite strong, even if the shiny coat has faded. Any type of disruption or shift in the bond diffuses horizontally, not vertically. What do I mean by that?

Let's go through the scenarios of our rapidly-approaching end times here:

1) As the climate worsens, various resources will become more and more strained or simply used up. The top-down clamps will keep people in check simply because they won't actually look up from their yokes.People will still scurry along with misguided beliefs unfounded in reality. "The government will fix it.", "It isn't as bad as they say.", or other rationalizations and delusions the people come up with.

2) When things hit a critical mass so badly that even the people have to react, they won't do it effectively or with power. This is where the horizontal diffusion comes in. This resonates with spectacles we see after football/soccer games. No matter who wins or lose, a group of people will riot. They destroy anything they get their hands on. Why? Because they can. Is it meaningful? No, just primal aggression for no reason then juvenile tribalism. The point here though is the same. When resources dry up, the people won't revolt upwards towards the power structures. They will revolt horizontally. They will perhaps riot, destroy, and loot from neighbors and shops. But they won't take a few seconds to wonder why it had to come to this. They won't revolt vertically -- just horizontally.

3) When the fires burn down and the dust settles, you will have a mass of people I believe will be in a stupor. The rich and powerful will have been long gone at this point, sequestered into luxury hidey holes. The people will be dazed, wondering who is coming to save them. The answer is simple -- no one.

In the end, humanity will not go out with a bang.
Humanity will not go out with a whimper.
I fear that humanity will go without even that.

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Comments

dkmich's picture

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*donate *follow us on Twitter *like us on Facebook *dump Google

Strife Delivery's picture

@dkmich Ha, well, might have to be inventive with that:

1) Many of them are old, so you will have tougher meat.
2) Many of them are quite obese, so not much meat portion and a lot of fat to trim.

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CB's picture

@Strife Delivery
humancutsofmeat.jpg

As you can see, you can use your Joy of Cooking cookbook to serve up a satisfying and delicious dinner.

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thanatokephaloides's picture

@CB

As you can see, you can use your Joy of Cooking cookbook to serve up a satisfying and delicious dinner.

I thought that was To Serve Man.......

Wink

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"I say enough! If Israel wants to be the only superpower in the Middle East then they can put their own asses on the line and do it themselves. I want to continue to eat."
-- snoopydawg

@CB

Lol, some of us have parts that don't look much like her parts though. Dammit!

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Psychopathy is not a political position, whether labeled 'conservatism', 'centrism' or 'left'.

A tin labeled 'coffee' may be a can of worms or pathology identified by a lack of empathy/willingness to harm others to achieve personal desires.

There is no ecological niche for technological h.Sapiens. Due to science and engineering we have evolved our species out of any stable interaction with the planet and with other species. We have destroyed climate homeostasis and destroyed habitat for most other species. It looks like it is irreversible without a massive, massive planetary scale effort to get us back into the Holocene and regrow planetary ice and reduce the human footprint by two orders of magnitude.

So the question to us- are we wise and knowledgeable enough to create a stable planet with a large human population?

OK, you can stop laughing now!

Civilization is a thin veneer. As the planet's system begin to crash and we can't grow enough food for 10 Billion mouths, civilization will crash. At that point it is run-away destruction. The earth will probably recover and generate new habitats and new species, perhaps the Dinosaurs will come back through evolution of bird genes, after 50 million years. However there is a small chance that it will not recover and will become more like Venus or Mars, becoming a toxic hot-house or a cold barren rock with no atmosphere or surface water.

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Capitalism has always been the rule of the people by the oligarchs. You only have two choices, eliminate them or restrict their power.

Alligator Ed's picture

@The Wizard

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@The Wizard
"Civilization is a thin veneer."
I'm not so sure of that. The _economy_ is a thin veneer, but people tend to create communities spontaneously.

I'm going to dig into some old pop anthropology here, which may be obsolete, oversimpified, and disproven by now: The Naked Ape and The Human Zoo, Desmond Morris. These books made a strong impression on me at a tender age; they offered a fresh way of looking at society, other than the mechanistic social philosophies. One point Morris made was that in order to study the human animal, it would be more productive to see the underlying patterns of mass "civilization", rather than remote backwater societies. The billions and billions (thank you, Dr. Sagan) are the case, not the exception, according to Morris. So I guess we could regard "civilization" as an emergent property which pops up spontaneously.

Just nit-picking, I like your comment.

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I believe, but in drastically reduced numbers, in a worst-case scenario. The human form is not specialized: no claws for rending or digging, no webbing for swimming, etc. I think the most specialization we show is in sustained running: good mechanisms for shedding heat (the "naked ape" theory), and the ability to run long distances. Despite this lack of specialized organs, we have colonized nearly every terrestrial habitat on Earth, with no more tech than stone and fire. Our strength is in generalization, not specialization, aided by cognition and social cooperation. Since we have representatives in all of these habitats, and we're good at organizing hunter-gatherer clans, I think it would take an unprecedented catastrophe to go extinct. Unlikely, IMHO, but possible.

However, that's a pretty academic argument, when you consider the amount of suffering that a collapse of our globally interdependent (i.e., fragile) society would entail. An economic hiccup in one part of the world means unemployment or hunger in another. I agree that there's unfounded optimism in "late stage capitalism" theorizing; there's no inevitability to history, other than that systems rise and fall. What we call capitalism for want of a better word could go on for a long time, in adapted forms, minus a billion or two surplus people lost in catastrophes. Bleak and brutal thinking. No wonder people prefer to believe otherwise, and trust in or hope for a savior of some sort.

We need to incorporate more understanding of our primate heritage into politics and economics: the cooperation as well as the competition. We're not ungulates in herds (despite appearances), we're primates in tribes/clans/groups. No fate is inevitable. Humans are very good at cooperating. We must flex that muscle -- an imbalance of excess competition threatens survival. The frustrated energy that goes into the football riots now can go into productive or at least harmless outlets; just repressing it doesn't help.

What worries me is that we have an economy based on "growth". In an organism, uncontrolled growth is fatal. In a resource-limited population, growth leads to the Malthusian nightmares. I don't know where to take this within a mere comment, but it needs to be considered. We need to use our cognition and cooperation.

Something else I wonder about: the dominant political theories have come out of a culture founded in Abrahamic monotheism and spread worldwide by colonialism, where the monotheism can be thought of as the dominance of male divinity and the exclusion of female divinity. (Of course, people don't really want that, so we have Mary, etc., creeping in.) Does this cause the dysfunction? I wonder if politics/economics from polytheist, animist, Buddhist, Taoist, cultures, etc. would be different or better?

Sorry, got carried away.

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@pindar's revenge
if there is no growth, then economics is a zero-sum game, and whatever the wealthy have must by definition be something they gained at the expense of everyone else.

if there is continual growth, then the wealthy can fast-talk a whole bunch of everyone elses into believing that the wealthy created their wealth. this is bunk of course, but it is the Fundamental Dogma that justifies the enslavement and impoverishment of the 99%.

and this is why we can't have nice things, and why talking about a zero-growth economy is Revolutionary with a capital R.

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Sigh

Alligator Ed's picture

@pindar's revenge In response to pindar's revenge and untimely ripped:

What worries me is that we have an economy based on "growth". In an organism, uncontrolled growth is fatal.

That is called cancer. One way to cure cancer is to starve it. Most methods to starve cancer are fatal to the host, as correctly explained.

Zero sum games are finite. But they can be continued generationally, engendering strings of zero sum games. Most players will be too enthralled by their own game, they omit looking at the results of other games occurring simultaneously. This brings us back to "social consciousness", a term which really does not denote any ethic or purpose. Social consciousness can enable good or ill or both. Social consciousness is now being enclosed in an ether bubble of microwave communications, which while seemingly connecting us more readily, have have the precisely opposite result of atomization.

Starve the cancer
Open the mind to possibility

Nice themes--but the realization occurs how?

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@Alligator Ed @Alligator Ed
Cooperative factories, where the value isn't drained off into richie land, producing goods needed by your neighbors. They exist.
Food co-ops.
People's maker spaces.
Energy co-ops. States are experimenting with "community solar", where people who can't otherwise afford it can buy into it.
Community bikes (happening).
Community gardens, neighbors sharing, produce exchange.
There used to be People's Free Medical Clinics.
Go to any prole supermarket, someone there is offering cheap rides home.
People's community meetings
A lot of pieces are out there. They need organizing. And some ability to resist when repression hits. After all, we'll need to be protected from each other /n, can't have corps lose opportunity. The repression will be political education. Unless they're skilled enough to make us think it's for our own good.

edit: added snark tag & sentence

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Daenerys's picture

It's not that we have no idea how to stop any of this--we do. Remember the 'scientists say renewable energy ready to go whenever' meme. It's that the people with any power to implement such technologies care more about money. We don't HAVE to dig all the oil and coal out of the ground and belch it back into the sky, but we do because greed is a bigger motivator than having a clean environment to live in, apparently. We have the means to take care of everyone, but we don't because money.
I remember hearing about global warming since I was a little kid 30+ years ago; fucking nothing has been done to stop it since then, save the sporadic wind and solar farms. At least in the US. Makes me so angry.
And none of us have any idea how to overthrow the psychopaths that be so we might have a chance of survival.

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This shit is bananas.

QMS's picture

@Daenerys appreciate your frustrations D. We have known for a long while now that change is going to happen locally. Community action. Working together to share the vision of a better future. Not coming from the the big bought BS. Find like minded souls around you. There is a positive way. Not expecting the fools in public office to do any more than line their pockets. Won't hold up progress if we work together.

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Use the Lincoln Law to fight government fraud.

Meteor Man's picture

@QMS
Remember that one? Now available free on line:

http://www.openculture.com/2011/10/the_whole_earth_catalog_online_the_bi...

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"They'll say we're disturbing the peace, but there is no peace. What really bothers them is that we are disturbing the war." Howard Zinn

@QMS
Whether the situation is upheaval or collapse, a network of mutually-supporting communities will buffer the suffering. A community where a percentage of homes have solar and batteries; where many grow food; weldors, mechanics, carpenters and geeks; where there is some basic medicine; where there is mutual support and we're willing to share, will weather troubles better than a bunch of preppers huddling by themselves out back. I think this kind of cooperative support is a necessary concomitant to any mass movement, and may provide nuclei for an emergent society. We need to organize for mutual support, as well as for resistance or opposition. The less dependent we are on the machine, the better.

Sigh. Way over-simplified and optimistic, maybe naive, but it beats despair. I'd rather go down trying for community than hiding in a bomb shelter. I have no idea how bad it might get, we might pull a rabbit out of the hat yet, I'm actually surprised it's not much worse by now (but I'm not in the ME). We have the ability; we need the organization and the will.

I say all this while warm and well-fed, then I put myself in the position of a poor Bangladeshi facing the rising ocean... And they're taking in the Rohingya.

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Wink's picture

the eXtra Terrestrials.
They're not going to
abandon their creation,
their sandbox.

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the little things you can do often are more valuable than the giant things you can't! - @thanatokephaloides. On Twitter @wink1radio. (-1.9) All about building progressive media.

CB's picture

@Wink

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Alligator Ed's picture

@CB But why are they smoking?

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CB's picture

@Alligator Ed
where they come from because they are a hydrogen sulfide based life form. Their ecosystems rely on chemosynthesis rather than photosynthesis.

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Hillbilly Dem's picture

@CB

Thanks for posting. I enjoyed it a lot. Isn't the alien on the right none other than Ben Bailey? He of Cash Cab?

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"Just call me Hillbilly Dem(exit)."
-H/T to Wavey Davey

Lookout's picture

...and they were a unit of evolution and embedded in our nature
Here's E O Wilson to explain (13 min)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ggO0Aso-eYk

...and here's E O suggesting a way to preserve the planet (6.5 min)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zq3w7cldgMU&pbjreload=10

But greed reigns supreme and we will not pursue a sane path. And though we can't buy and develop a bolt hole like the 1%, we can find supportive communities in which to ride out the coming climate catastrophe. The climate disaster has started as any who look can see.

Thanks for the essay. Enjoy the extinction...
George has a good take (8 min)

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“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”