Saturday, April 08, 2006

Anthropocentrism, Free Energy and Hopelessness

The recent controversy over Dr. Eric Pianka's comments on the occasion of his acceptance of the Texas Academy of Science's 2006 Distinguished Scientist award reminds me of the Terri Schiavo episode.

With Schiavo I was repeatedly compelled to put in my two cents even though there was little chance of changing any minds (even if anybody had read what I wrote). I did it for my own satisfaction until it got boring.

Now I'm getting bored with the Pianka controversy, but I'm coming away with increased admiration for Pianka and increasing disrespect for his fundie detractors. I've allowed the fundies to increase my degree of polarization, but in the wrong direction (from their perspective).

I tend to agree with JJ Mollo's comment on my previous post on this topic, that Pianka's radicalism
provokes an opposing reaction from sane people that is even more dangerous. The worst are the convinced Market Capitalists who think the whole issue is just alarmism, and that we can grow our way out of any future difficulties. Guys like Michael Crichton, though he be as wrong as wrong can be, are very persuasive when contrasted with Pianka-style ruthlessness.
But sometimes you have to call a spade a spade, as they say.

I don't know how I could grow any more distant from people who think this way: BREAKING NEWS - Dr. Death & The Religion Of Genocide - Disciple of Pianka goes further, wants 100% of humans dead, and I have to take note of the Better World Alternative advertisement at the bottom of the page. Dennis Lee is apparently still providing a "free look" at "free energy" for only $100. I guess he knows where easy marks are found.

There seems very little reason for hope. Pianka's observations about humanity's mindless breeding and its consequences are spot on, but even Time Magazine's recent special report on global warming ("Be worried. Be VERY worried.") barely even mentions population growth. (You have to subscribe or buy the magazine to see the whole thing, and I did).

Here are a couple of links. The Panda's Thumb has been watching things, and the Daily Texan has a good piece. (Also of note is the University of Ediacara's web site, linked from The Panda's Thumb. ;>) I'll have to see about enrolling.)

Hat tip to JM O'Donnell for the lead to the Seguin Gazette-Enterprise's "bulk" of the transcript of Dr. Pianka's address. Some say this material is disappearing from the net. I don't know if it is disappearing or not, but when I went directly to the Seguin Gazette-Enterprise's web site looking for the transcript, the link was dead. In fact, when I used their own search function to look for anything on "Pianka" or "transcript", it came up empty-handed. In fact, when I looked for the original story that I linked from my previous post on this topic it was nowhere to be found.

Here is the "bulk of" transcript that used to be on the Seguin Gazette-Enterprise site, as snagged from Google's cache. It destroys the notion that Pianka was advocating genocide.

St. Edward's University transcript
From staff reports
The Gazette-Enterprise

Published April 6, 2006
The following is the bulk of the transcript from Dr. Eric Pianka's speech at St. Edward's University on Friday, March 31, 2006.

We are attempting to locate the audio from some sections of the speech to complete the transcript The Gazette-Enterprise also hopes to make the audio of the presentation available in the near future.


The great North American saltgrass prairie and we just took it and turned it all into agricultural lands. We exterminated the bison, wiped out the Indians, totaled the prairie dogs and those black-faced ferrets. We just erased an eco-system. Now this is very nice for Americans because that rich topsoil has allowed us to grow food and we can feed ourselves and the rest of the world and we've grown fat and apathetic and miserable as a result of it. We've lost the bison — we've lost an awful lot and we'll never be able to recover.

So this is what I want to talk about and this is very doomsday and I'm gonna go down, down, down, down, down and then I'm gonna try to come up just a little bit (up) at the end if I have time.


The book of life: The question — can we read it? Will we be allowed to try to read it? I'm finding that I am no longer allowed to do things that I used to be able to do because as we have taken all the habitats and imperiled all the other species, other species have become so scarce that they have to be protected and I'm afraid its not too long before I won't be able to touch a lizard in the wild. And then finally, do we have enough time? I think the time has almost run out on us here and I'm gonna come back to that.

The biggest enemy we face is anthropocentrism. This is that common human attitude that everything on this earth was put here for our use — to be used any way we want. An example of an anthropocentric human is an 18-year-old man with a chain saw with a four-inch bar cutting down a redwood tree that's a thousand years old. That is audacity and that is anthropocentrism and that is an evil, evil thing.

As I told you, I like lizards as much or more than Phil and Al like their animals. I live up in the hills about 35 miles west of Austin. We have a tradition out there — we moved out before anybody else — but now it's turned into a bedroom of Austin (a bedroom community of Austin). All kinds of people move out in the hills and bring their mobile homes and their security lights and their cats and dogs and they're trying to avoid the high taxes in Austin so there's a horrible, horrendous commute with new stoplights going in everywhere.

The city of Dripping Springs has had to build three new schools because of this and it's turned into a little suburb of Austin. And everything has gone down. Folks, when you meet your new neighbors it's usually over a fence — so I've got a fence — a barbed wire fence — and my neighbors come up and say "Hi, who are you — what are you doing out here?" And I introduce myself, and they want to know what I — how I make my living and I tell them and then I start to plead with them.

I point out that there used to be a lot of lizards and a lot of snakes living in these hills and that they're all disappearing because of this approaching urbanization. I plead with them not to let their cats and dogs run loose — cats are born killers. They let dogs run loose so they can play with the deer. Well you can't do that — dogs are wolves — they pack up and they kill things. And they don't belong out there. Another thing people do is put out feeders for birds. And that brings in the urban birds — so blue jays and things that shouldn't be out there replace the scrub jays that should be there. I've seen rattlesnakes disappear.

One of these new [inaudible] came up to me when I pleaded with them about not letting their cats kill lizards — one of these women made a huge mistake — she looks at me and she said "what good are lizards?"


I looked at her in the eye and said "what good are you?"


I thought at first the family would hate me forever but after one day when she was gone invited me down for a drink and they all congratulated me and said this was exactly what she needed to be told.


Now, what ecologists want and need is access to vital organisms and semi-pristine environments because these are the places to which they've evolved and to which they're adapted. It don't make any sense if they're not in their natural habitat.

A rattlesnake… people call me all the time and want to see a rattlesnake. They don't want to see a wild rattlesnake; they want to see one behind glass. A rattlesnake in cage might as well be dead as far as I'm concerned. It doesn't have a natural habitat. It doesn't make any sense. I don't know where it evolved or what it's adapted to; I don't know anything about it. It's as if you took a D.H. Lawrence novel out and a pair of scissors and started cutting the word "love" out every time you saw it and putting the little "loves" in jars. You don't know if they're verbs or nouns, you don't know who loves who; it's completely out of context. And that's the trouble with animals in zoos. They don't have any ecologies anymore.

[Garbled speech, followed by laughter]

But I told you —Thoreau is responsible for this metaphor — and uh I think there's two sides to this. We have to face the vanishing book, but we also have to read it. And my point as a as a biologist is any fool can help save it. There's tree-huggers galore out there and conservation people that just want to save the planet. Any fool can do that. But it takes somebody who's dedicated and earnest and crazy to do what Phil and Al and I can do and try to go out and read it and try to make sense of it. That's what we should do if we have the skills to do it. We should try to read it before it's gone. And I don't see any point in trying to save anything unless biologists are allowed access to it. I think that is a critical point here.

Now I'm going to talk a little bit on conservation biology in a minute. There's a picture of Walter Olsten III and here's the (inaudible) — this was published about 15 years ago in I think in BioScience. And, uh, he didn't take the analogy quite as far as I did, but I really like it.

Now for some of you some of these things won’t seem like they're new but I'm pretty old and I remember when faxes first came out and I was working in Australia and I wanted to send something to Texas to Austin and I had a new fax machine. It was going in in Australia, and I could see it in now-time coming out in Austin, and to me that was technology unbelievable beyond belief. And I'm still hoping they'll figure out how to fax me back and forth [laughter] and avoid the plane trip and all the rest.

We've got technology now that is just out of this world. I started using the Net before it was Internet, before we talked about email, it was called the Arpanet back then and, uh, what I'm finding now with email is that I can have colleagues anywhere in the world and we can work really fast because if there in Australia, when I'm asleep they're working, when I'm working they're asleep, so we're working 24 hours around the clock and we can fax stuff back and forth and email things back and forth, papers just rolling out.

So, of all these things there's a list, the short list there, of all the new things that are here that we didn't have or some of them. Uh, one of 'em that I really wish had been around earlier was GPS cause when I was out collecting before lizards were gone from large parts of the geographic ranges all I got was 15 miles north-northwest of Mojave, California, and I had to go look at a map and try to make Latitude and Longitude. It would have been so much nicer to have a little GPS and been able to record these things accurately; but it's really now too late because we've erased big chunks of information.

A couple of my North American study sites I've gone back to and they were just crawling, just teaming with lizards only 40 or 45 years ago, and now there are parts of little cities, trailer parks and there's not a lizard to be found. So the collections I made back then that are in storage in museums are really fossils. They represent what was there before humans took the habitat. To me that is shocking. It makes those collections pretty valuable, too.

So, conservation biology — I'm not saying I don't approve of it — I'm saying we need it — but I'm saying those of you who consider yourself a rabid conservation biologist, please, please, please allow biologist access to the book of life. That's one of the main reasons for saving it.

Conservation biology is a crisis discipline. It's an emergency and it's a man-made emergency. We wouldn't need it if we hadn't ravaged this earth and taken over so much of its surface. Right now, we are using half of the earth's surface — land surface. Right now, we are using more than half of the available fresh water. Right now, we are using half of the solar energy that hinges on the land surface of the earth. That is shocking. One species is taking half of everything there is for it's greedy little self.

So, in physiology we have surgery — that's an emergency response — to how to handle physiology — somebody's dying — you take them to surgery. And political science — war is the equivalent. When you have an emergency in political science you go to war. That's what conservation biology is — it's a crisis discipline — and it's man-made — just like war is.

It actually is more than just biology because it bridges the gap to the social sciences, and I think we have to start thinking in terms of the ethics of what we do with this earth. We should have started thinking about it a long time ago.

So here are some of the things conservation biologists are interested in — they're worried about making reserves, identifying endangered species, uh, helping to prevent things that are teetering on the edge of extinction from going extinct, and all sorts of things. And this is highly funded in large parts of the world — but I don't consider this ecology — it's applied ecology. It's not reading the book, it's just all leaning towards trying to save what little is left.

Money has to be spent on that.

Now, when I was a little boy I spent hours and hours looking through “Audubon's Birds of the World.” I remember looking at this passenger pigeon — the last passenger pigeon she died in a Cincinnati zoo in 1914. And as a little boy I couldn't believe it, cause I read the text it said the sky was blackened with billions of these birds flying over. And then I read further and found out that humans and their greed went up to their nests and clubbed the babies and pickled them and shipped them off to Europe to be eaten as squabs. And they did this a few seasons and they managed to stop the reproduction of this species and effectively drive it extinct in just a very short time — a few years.

We did the same thing with the Carolina parakeet, and of course we thought [garbled] we thought we did with the ivory-billed woodpecker, but now found out that we were really lucky that a few managed to hang on somewhere. And I bet right now bird watchers out there are having fits trying to add the ivory-billed to their life’s list.

Rhinos: When I first went to Africa to study lizards, rhinos were still fairly abundant and they hadn't been savaged by humans. There's a bunch of species of rhinos and now they are all endangered, uh, and this is because some myth that came out of Asia that rhinoceros horns were a good aphrodisiac — and a rhinoceros horn can be worth like ten thousand dollars.

The way this works is that people in power convince poor people that could never make any money in their whole life because they live in Africa and they're in third world countries and poor blacks that if they could get them a rhino horn they'll pay them a thousand dollars, which is more than he could make in his whole life. Then the guy gives him a gun and if the poacher succeeds he buys it for a thousand dollars, takes it to Europe or Asia, grinds it up and markets it for tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. I think it’s time to switch to Viagra.


Anyway, if you look at this you can see the little black spots, which are the only places you can find rhinos. They're virtually gone from most of the geographic range.

This is the way we treat everything. This is the geographic range of the American bison — a very beautiful animal found from Buffalo, New York, all the way to Sierra-Nevada in the original, uh, before the 1800's would quickly, quickly culled these huge herds. I wish I had time to read quotes about bison thundering all through the day and all through the night. They called it prairie thunder. But that's gone and that's gone for good, and you're not going to see it in your lifetime; and that's a loss. When they built the Trans-continental Railroad people would buy a ticket and get a gun and load it with big slugs and shoot bison as they rode across the continent from through the Great Plains. And you can see they really split the bison herd into northern herd and southern herd.

One of the generals, I think it was Sheridan said, that the bison hunters had done more to control the American Indian than all the cavalry put together. We basically starved a lot of American Indians out — those that we didn't kill instantly with smallpox and measles. We stole this continent from other people. We just took it.

I have a herd of bison. I think they are absolutely magnificent animals. Uh, that's my herd bull, Lucifer, at the bottom left. He stands six feet tall and weighs about twenty-six hundred pounds and when Lucifer wants to he goes over the fence — and when he does (I've never seen it) but I think the earth must shudder at this spot for a millisecond.

Here's some more things that we should think about: We have to get off our anthropocentric high horse. Biodiversity has a value beyond how it can be used by humans. Other things on this earth have been here longer than us — much, much longer — and they have a right to this planet too. And that includes wasps that sting you, ants that bite you, scorpions — it includes wolves and wolverines and all kinds of things that we have pushed to very brink of extinction.

I'm not going to have time to talk about these things that concern conservation biologists but I just wanted to point out one that's kind of pathetic and that's the minimum viable population size — how low can we go and still have something — this is pathetic.

One conservation biologist coined the term "extinction vortex" and he said as we drive things down, down, down so that the populations get precariously low all kinds of factors come together to sweep them down to extinction — and these are all manmade things. We stole their habitat. We fragmented their habitat. We've knocked the population sizes down to the point where, uh, genetic variability disappears and, of course, toxic pollution.

We're more worried now about toxic pollution as it affects us. It's causing cancers and all kinds of neat things. But we ought to be worried about it as it applies to everything on this earth. And now, of course, people are finally, finally just now beginning to be aware, as we have savaged the atmosphere to the point that the planet is changing.

It's just a matter of time until the planet changes really bad. Some meteorological people have models that show thresholds where it shifts just instantly overnight. What I'm waiting for is when you go to the supermarket and there are no more Triscuits on the shelves and you say to yourself, "Hey, where did Triscuit come from, anyway."

We've lost touch with the reality of where food comes from. We're completely mislead. It's just a commodity that's bought and sold and people make money on it. You've got to think, you've got to think — and remember, humans were hunter/gatherers not that long ago and I think we're gonna to be again very soon.

One of the things we do is deforest everything — cut down trees to burn to keep ourselves warm, build boats or houses. And deforestation is really bad in most places on the planet. The U.S. is kind of fortunate — we have the luxury of trees because we got into coal and fossil fuels early and managed to keep ourselves warm and in this case air-conditioned without cutting down too many trees.

There's an oasis in the Sahara desert out in the middle of nowhere in Northern Africa that had three trees. It was called tres arboles in Arabic, and I say tres arboles because I know you speak Spanish. But some sucker cut the trees down so it is still on the map, it’s still an oasis, but there ain't three trees there anymore. One cold night, one selfish homo cut them down.

Oh, I just wanted to comment on these two beautiful lizards, which are endemic to Madagascar. Madagascar is one of the places that I really want to go before I die because it has all these endemics on it split off from mainland Africa like a hundred million years ago and it's got all kinds of things that are found nowhere else on the earth and yet the people of Madagascar are third-world starving over-populated eating everything.

There's an endangered land tortoise in Madagascar that's like protected on the world's list of don't do anything to this turtle and it's commonly used for turtle soup by poor people in Madagascar.

This is to illustrate habitat fragmentation. The picture on the upper left is the way this square mile of woods and things in Wisconsin looked when humans first got there. It was forested with a little piece of prairie in the southwestern corner. The prairie burned every year (prairie fires) and over time the prairie built up these deep black top soils, which are nourishing our nation today. Now the first thing settlers did was cut the trees down as you can see. In a little over a century this turned into just wood lots. Now you can imagine the effects this had on whatever lived in that forest.

Here's an example from Borneo. This is what we are doing to this planet. Wood has become very valuable and we're just clear-cutting anything that's left. Think about this.

One of the problems with fragmentation is that you lose core habitat. In that scene that I showed you from Wisconsin back in the 1830s before humans got there, there was only a little tiny bit of edge between the prairie and the forest. And cowbirds approached the edge. Cowbirds are really parasites. They lay their eggs in the nests of other birds. Uh, cowbirds used to be very scarce in North America and with our habitat fragmentation their populations have just boomed and the only place that small songbirds like warblers can lay their eggs to get away from these parasitic cowbirds is deep in the forest. So if you have tiny little patches there's no place that a small songbird can get away from cowbirds. So now cowbirds are very abundant, small birds are heavily parasitized and their populations are on the brink of going extinct because of our clearing and habitat fragmentation.

This is testimony to our (inaudible). This is a Texas company you might have heard of Freeport-McMoRan. Uh, they have formed an alliance with the Indonesian officials, and they're taking gold and copper off the top of this mountain in Papua, Indonesia. They've stripped off most of the top of that mountain and they ship it down the side to be sent back to the, uh, places where they extract the gold and copper in great big slurry tubes. It's like ten feet in diameter. It goes down to the sea where there's boats to haul it away.

Then you can see the damage it's doing. It's causing mudslides on the sides of the mountain and these are polluting all the streams down below. There were native tribes living in the lowlands of New Guinea that lived off these beautiful, clear streams with fish and crustaceans and food of all sorts that now can't get anything because the streams are clogged with mud from dirt from Freeport McMoRan’s mining on the top of the mountain.

A bunch of these people that are being dispossessed by this big, fat company on top of the mountain broke into one of their shacks and got some dynamite and some primers and they blew up the slurry tube. And I remember hearing Freeport McMoRan’s CEO complaining (this is Jim Bob Moffett at the time) that it was costing his company a million dollars a day not to have that slurry tube open.

They've been doing it for ten years. They've been taking a million dollars a day out of there for ten years. And when they get done with this mountain, they'll move to the next one behind it.

This is the scariest graphic that you're ever gonna see in your whole life — take a good look at it. We hit six billion not very long ago and now we hit six and a half and we're still going, roaring. This kind of population growth is unsustainable and has to stop.

Now I'm gonna try to prove that to you.

Paul Ehrlich, in the 1960s, wrote a book, “The Population Bomb,” calling attention to this. Nobody paid any attention to poor old Paul. And I hear people even today saying, "Oh, I’ve heard you doomsday ecologists before. We've still got water, there's no problems." They're so stupid and short-sighted.


Here's China. How would you like to live there? Look at all those little window A/Cs. They've got power. (Garbled). Humans can be packed in. There's China. You want to live like a termite? Are we termites? Come on. I want to be up on top of the hill where that chair is and I want to have some space around me.

Now cartoonists have had fun with this. People don't seem to care. We still allow you people to have more than two kids. Our tax system is completely backwards. We encourage you. We give you a discount for having kids. You should have to pay more when you have your first kid you pay more taxes. When you have your second kid you pay a lot more taxes, and when you have your third kid you don't get anything back, they take it all. Our tax system is bad; it's backwards.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife recently released caribou off the islands off of Alaska to help the Eskimos, the Aleuts, get protein. And the herds from these islands — there were several islands — all grew exponentially just like the human population's been growing for quite a few years and then they ate everything they could eat and the populations crashed.

This is what's going to happen to us. This is gonna happen in your lifetime. Does that look like fun? Do you want to go there? You've gone there. We waited too long.

Here's a checklist from Genesis. We checked all the boxes except one. We have dominion over the fish and the fowl and everything that moveth on this earth but we forgot, forgot to replenish it. We just shriveled it up like that little dried up raisin that you see down in the bottom — we're sucking everything we can out of it and turning it into fat human biomass.

Cartoonists (inaudible) this and probably shouldn't use this cause I never asked them their permission, but I think I can get away with it in a talk. I can't believe myself when (inaudible) buy a hotdog. The looks I'm getting — everyone knows what these are made of (inaudible). Hope you enjoy your meat. There goes another rainforest.

(Garbled) Maybe if I stand still. Look at me standing hear spewing out CO2.


Everyone of us is guilty — everything we do, every breath you take, every time you flush the toilet, every time you drive your car, every time you buy anything we all contribute to the mess of pollution on this earth. In many cases you don't even know what you're doing.

And of course I want to single out CO2 because this is really turning out to be a big thing that could really spell out our demise sooner maybe than people think or realize. The government doesn't want you to know about this. CO2 has just risen steadily and it's way, way above normal levels, and it's manmade its from our burning fossil fuels mostly, but also from cutting down forests and burning them up.

So this has caused global warming, and it's changing our climates and we don't know but some speculation it might be affecting things like hurricanes and of course the more humans you pack in on the surface of the earth the more of these things are going to decimate the human population.

I don't need to tell you about that.

But, I'm a little bit more concerned about things like polar bears. Now, we take the polar bear because it's a big, warm fuzzy that the WWF cares about, but everybody thinks polar bears are nice and it would be a shame to lose them. These things require ice and ice flows. They're arctic adapted animals, and as the ice flows melt some people are thinking that it might be the end of the polar bear.

And, of course, those of you that haven't thought an inkling about this think, “Oh, we'll just keep them; we'll have them in zoos and have the air conditioning turned way down.”

And I remind you that they are not wild polar bears; they are like “love” in a box.

So the global climate is changing, and now I come back now to Paul Ehrlich. I said this was going to go down, down, down and I meant it.

Ehrlich in the ‘60s said, if humans don't have the political will to control their own population, microbes will control it for us. Now I want to remind you of 1300 when the "black death" swept down from China and one-third of the world's population died.

We killed off an awful lot of indigenous new-world people with smallpox and measles. Which were things that white humans in Europe were adapted to because we lived with them, but the people that made it across the Bering Strait could not cope and a lot of those (inaudible) because of that. We're going to see this again.

The microbes are smaller, and they reproduce really fast — have generation times measured in minutes or less. They evolve really quickly, and we can't keep up with them. We are doomed. The microbes are going to get us. We are, we are a great big immerging substrate just waiting for microbes to grow on us. And even though we are still homo sapiens — you know what sapiens means, it means smart — I'd say we're not. I'd say we're dumb because we're letting our population grow just like bacteria grow on an agar plate until they've reached the limits; and that's dumb.

So to try to convince you that population deregulation — if you want to use this (garbled) for example — where you plot the percentage changes of population versus population density. And when the populations are large they tend to decrease and when the populations are small they tend to increase. So to get a negative slope on our progression on those data points it says population (inaudible) through population regulation.

Now, this is one example. I want to summarize a hundred or some in this table. Most of these studies are done with birds. Birds have been studied to death because humans like 'em and — I don’t know all the rest — uh, but there's a few invertebrates on here. And to the right you see the significantly negative regressions, like the one I just showed you; and to the left are the positive ones. The vast majority of these are negative. Half of them at least are significantly negative, and two-thirds of them are negative.

There's one exception — far, far off to the left — one species out of these one hundred and thirty-eight that thinks it can violate the rules of the natural world that thinks it can grow indefinitely and that's us — homo is bad.

The Web is such a wonderful place. You, just, if you don't know what to do if you want to say something. I thought, what would really jostle the audience? And I thought of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and so I typed that in – [snap] somebody spent days painting this. (Noise) funny little with a skull on it’s head. It’s death. This is what awaits us all – Death.

I just love the Web. [Laughter] All I did was type in "skull," and this came up. Think about it.

Think about everything I've said and more.

This is an AIDS infected piece of a human. Each of those little round things is an HIV virulent that can infect a new human. Basically, they use their T-cells to they make copies of themselves.

HIV is a pandemic spread worldwide. It's increasing in frequency in a lot of places and it's a big concern to everybody. But, it's not gonna be the one that gets us cause HIV is too slow, it lets us live several years so it can pass itself on to new hosts.

Uh, it's no good, it's too slow.

Now when you get to these viruses — Ebola Zaire has potential. It kills nine out of ten humans. It's never gotten out of Africa cause its so virulent it kills everybody before they can move. I mean it kills you within a day or two.

Uh, you can only catch Ebola Zaire by contact with a human that's infected. It causes you to bleed. It breaks capillaries and you bleed out your orifices and if you go out and touch somebody who's sick with it you get it and you die, too — or nine times out of ten.

Ebola-Reston did get out of Africa and to the U.S. in the form of green monkeys that were imported for medical research and it's named after Reston, West Virginia where they have quarantine facility for these monkeys. And, uh, they had this epidemic and all the monkeys died but they didn't have contact with each other. But they were sharing a common, uh, ventilation system. So, this is in this room, air was circulating being pumped back, and so on. Uh, monkeys in a room that breathe the same air caught it.

Now it is only a matter of time until Ebola got here evolves and mutates a little and it will be airborne, and then I think we might finally get a take. And when it sweeps across the world — we're gonna have a lot of dead people. Every one of you that is lucky enough to survive gets to bury nine. Think about that. I doubt Ebola is gonna be the one that gets us. I think it will be, uh, something else.

But did you ever wonder why things like SARS and now what the Avian Flu are continually cropping up? They're cropping up because we were dumb enough to make a perfect epidemiological substrate for an epidemic. We bred our brains out, and now we're being pegged. The microbes are gonna take over. They're gonna control us as they have in the past. Think about that.

Here's a breath of fresh air: Aldo Leopold. This is the start of the tiny little up. You've got to the lowest of the low where the microbes are gonna get you. Now, were gonna try to come up a little bit. Aldo Leopold was a conservation biologist before anybody else was. He was in wildlife management at the University of Wisconsin back in the ‘50s. And Leopold died young, but his children have put together a collection of his essays and made this book, "A Sand County Almanac." I encourage all of you to read it. It brings tears to my eyes at some of the things in it. I mean I literally break down and weep.

But one of the things Leopold said was each generation doesn't know what it lost — the last generation remembers.

Like I remember I could walk out my back door to a semi-pristine creek and collect snakes and lizards, and kids these days don't have that opportunity. There aren't any pristine creeks and they're living in cities, and that's unfortunate. Uh, I've become a biologist largely because of that. Um, you really can't help but be a biologist if you're exposed to it when you are young.

Now one of his statements was that we cannot act as conquerors, that we weren't given some God-given right to do anything we want like chop down the redwood trees and we have to have respect for fellow members of the earth. And this has to transcend antrhopocentrism. They have a right to this planet, too.

I found this in a conservation biology textbook, and I think it's very appropriate in these days. You remember, you probably don't remember unless you’ve ever lived in a cave, but if you've ever thought about being a caveman, we had small little tribes, and I was an old guy, and you probably would have killed me because I can't see without glasses, so I probably wouldn't have made it. But they keep around a few elders for their wisdom — because they've been through, you know, the droughts and problems and those guys might have known a little bit about how to treat a broken leg or some illness. Um, and of course you had the medicine men and women that specialized in that.

But we were little in-bred groups and occasionally people would move between caves but these were family groups they were little teeny little tribes and there were battles between 'em over resources. Um, and that's down there at the bottom. We're all familiar with selfish behavior in that tiny little circle at the bottom. We're all selfish and natural selection favors selfish behavior. Now you can be a little bit altruistic towards your kin, as long as they share genes that are identical by descent.

Uh, and so cavemen had little tribes that worked, but now as we expand outwards the less closely related individuals would get to a social group, or a tribe, and then finally get their own race or their own nation.

And just look at the polarization in America today — 50 percent one way and 50 percent the other. We are not doing very well at cooperating as we go outside of that tiny circle to bigger and bigger domains.

And then you get individuals of other species. Here I'm thinking of chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans. They're our closest relatives. They share our blood groups. They probably can think. I just wonder if one of those had been the lucky one to inherit the earth and evolve the big brain and take control over everything else how they would be treating us. We would be the, uh, the chimps and the gorillas and they'd be using us for medical experiments and eating us like they eat the bush meat in Africa. Think about that.

Actually that goes beyond gorillas and apes to the whole earth, and we really need to take control and be stewards of this planet rather than conquerors and rapists.

Here's one more little upbeat thing, and unfortunately this isn't very much of an up, Herman Daly has identified the big problem, which is our economy. It's basically completely flawed. You've heard the politicians talk about the growing economy. Our economy is based on the principal of a chain letter, a pyramid scheme. They cannot work. The bubbles always burst. And the bubble is going to burst.

And it's bursting right now in terms of the oil. The price of gasoline isn't going to go down again. You need to get rich from this.

You need to hone your survival skills. The first thing you should do when you go home tonight is get a real tarp, one that's made out of canvas that's waterproof. Don't get one of those dumb plastic ones. They deteriorate too fast. And start packing it with the absolute necessities that you think you have to have for life. And that would include like a blanket and some sharp knives and some string and some twine.

I'm not talking toothpaste. I'm not talking a lot of things. And you wrap it up and figure out how you can carry it on your own two shoulders because you are not going to be able to take public transport or drive your car when the time comes. And then you want to get as far away as you can from any other human being. And try to snare a rabbit, if there is still a rabbit out there.

I can give you some other tips on your survival kit, but I don't have time.

Now back to Herman Daly. He wants the economy to be sustainable, and he has the idea of an equilibrium economy. In an equilibrium economy, every one of us would leave this earth in exactly the same shape it was when we came into it. None of us are doing that. None of us.

Uh, mainstream economists think he's a nut, he's a kook — they just ignore him. Mainstream economists, the economists that advise our politic (political) figures, have believed completely in grow, grow, grow growth-mania — impossible economics.

So if your have a leaning towards economics here's a challenge for you. Economics has to be reinvented. Herman Daly's published four books on it. He has to get some people on his side. People have to think. They can't just keep behaving like sheep thinking resources are ever expanding. They've got to realize that the resources are ever retracting, and we're running out of everything that matters. And I mean everything — oil, food, clean air, clean water.

This was a good book. Uh, there was actually three versions of it. The first one was, um, commissioned by somebody concerned about the environment back in the ‘70s. Dennis Meadows, uh, was the first author of it and it was called, uh, "Limits to Growth" and he developed a systems model for the earth and its resources and how many people we could put on it. Had various scenarios that he could work through including unlimited technology and a lot of other things.

And, uh, basically in 1972, he said, we better do something fast. And, of course, just like all of us who grew up in the ‘60s, nobody paid any attention. We just kept breeding our brains out and ignoring it. Then in 19uh, ‘92 they wrote another book called "Beyond the Limits," and they pointed out that we could never ease back into a sustainable society, that we had already gone too far; and that was in 1980.

Now it's 25 years later and, with his daughter, Donella, and somebody else you can see there, Dennis has put out the "Limits to Growth — 30 years Later." And this is quite, quite a depressing book because every scenario we run we have to have a collapse. And the collapses, uh, are worse in some scenarios than they are in others, but they are in the immediate future.

You're going to see it in your lifetime and the important thing is this is just the beginning of it, this thing we are experiencing right now. We aren't ready for a non-(garbled) world. That (inaudible) out there, shining down on you from the (inaudible). Think about that.

Here's one of their graphs where the human footprint, and I think this is very optimistic, is that horizontal line and our actual population is the other one and you can see the cross the maximum level in, uh, 1980, and we're about 20 percent above according to their figures.

I think this is overly optimistic because we could never have reached six-and-a-half billion without fossil fuels. Basically, we turned oil into food and food into humans, and we used the oil to build highways and cars and take over and make this mess — the CO2 pollution and all the rest. But we're running out.

So this is really, really an exciting time in the history of mankind. Remember the ancient Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times”? I think that right now has got to be just about the most interesting time ever and you get to see it, and, hopefully, a few are gonna live through it.

Here's another graph from their book. The only one I could find on the Web was a little outdated, but they predicted way long ago the oil peak. And, of course, there are still idiots out there claiming that there's oil galore that we will keep finding it and keep going, and I just can't believe these people that don't understand a finite world.

But you notice the estimated population red line with a collapse and without a collapse and things are gonna get better after the collapse because we won't be able to decimate the earth so much. And, I actually think the world will be much better when there's only 10 or 20 percent of us left.

It would give wildlife a chance to recover — we won't need conservation biologists anymore. Things are gonna get better.

I recommend Heinberg's "Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies — The Party's Over." And last night I was sitting at a banquet with a chemist and he said, it's like we were on a luxury liner and we're on the upper floor of the luxury liner and there's a hole in it and it's sinking, but everybody's having a big party up here, and it's just a matter of time until we are all underwater. And I think this Heinberg's message carefully researched all the facts. It's a doomsday book but he's an optimist so he has this optimistic end where he says what we can do, as individuals, and one is to live, you know, lessen your imprint — drive a Prius instead of an Excursion — uh, it'll save you money — uh, ride a bicycle — grow your own food. He has all kinds of good ideas.

Now the other book on the end of the oil isn't quite as good, I don't think but it is even more dire. The one I've got on the right. And I wanted to tell you about John Stuart Mill and point out that there have been bright people who have seen this coming for a long, long, long time.

Mill wrote that back in 1858, and it's basically a statement about a stationary world and how a stationary world can be a good world. In a stationary world you don't have to worry about bubbles bursting, about losing your, uh, your stock, about, about, you know, running out of oil. In a stationary world we were sustainable and the world stays the same from day to day.

So he says in a stationary world as opposed to one that's grow, grow, grow where everybody has to elbow the other guy and compete to get to the front and be concerned about who's going to win and who's going to lose everyday in the stock market. And in a stationary world we can focus in on things that really matter. And he used a phrase that I really love — the art of living. We can work on the art of living. Think about that.

Sorry that's all I've got to say.
How this maps to advocacy of genocide is beyond me.

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