By Gaia Gardener: On Suffering

Buried in the comments of the last post we discussed human overshoot and what should be done about it. I proposed our goal should be to minimize suffering and that the best path to achieving this goal is awareness of Ajit Varki’s Mind Over Reality Transition (MORT) theory.

My view, in summary, is that when fully aware of the reality and implications of human overshoot, our best personal and collective responses become self-evident and require no coercion to implement. Conversely, when overshoot is denied, all of our best personal and collective responses are vehemently rejected as assaults on our rights and entitlements.

Unfortunately, our genetic tendency to deny unpleasant realities, as explained by MORT, blocks overshoot awareness. Therefore any progress in a good direction requires an understanding of MORT.

Put more bluntly, all environmental activists, climate changers, peak oilers, Gaia lovers, population reducers, etc. should be focused with Zen-like precision on MORT, and any other activity is a complete waste of time, as demonstrated by our zero progress on any substantive issue over the last 50 years since Limits to Growth was published.

Reader Gaia Gardener responded with some beautiful prose that I thought was a good reason to clear the decks and create this new post.

For useful background, the comment thread that motivated the following essay by Gaia Gardener begins here.

Upon gazing up at the starry night sky thoughts like these come to my mind–there must be some sentient life form and civilization somewhere in this vast universe that broke through this barrier of denial that causes suffering to self, other life forms, and their ultimate destruction of their planetary home. Just being able to internalize this gives me much peace and acceptance of my infinitesimally small but still conscious being. If I keep gazing, sometimes I can lose sense of self completely and just melt into a time/space/no and every mind. Fermi’s paradox may be the most probable explanation for our seemingly unique manifestation but in a near infinite cosmos, there is still a chance that we may not understand everything!

If we are not here, or even if we were never here, the vastness of the universe continues to be, the ultimate laws of physical construct still stand as foundational building blocks to all matter and life, and life forms will continue to evolve even if given the most minute opportunity. In light of these critical truths, our knowledge of it is an ego awareness and recognition of what always was and will be and which has been already recognized by eons of cultures in their own way of expression. From creation myths to quantum equations, it is all a finger pointing at the moon, a way of reaching the untouchable but the real mystery and awe lies in the experience of just being. I suppose what is most tragic to our species is that we may lose our own consciousness to reflect back on our understandings of our world, in a word, annihilation. But can we take solace in the knowledge that we are elemental stardust to begin with and will return to that state, and since our guiding laws tell us matter and energy are constantly changing form, that is what we must be also, moment by moment, if even there is something called time. Then it is not a far reach for me to accept death, but suffering is another matter. Our ability to experience suffering ourselves is the prerequisite of consciousness and to be aware of suffering in others and make a choice for relief is the core of our humanity.

I have of late, at this crossroad of our civilization, find myself asking “Has it all been worth the suffering?” The knowledge gained, the art expressed, the structures erected, the technology exploded, has it been worth what we have also wrought with the same force and energy, the destruction and injustice to our planet and other life forms, starting with our own species, closer kin than any other stardust in this vastness of space. For example, for JS Bach to be born and for us to experience the incomparable beauty of his music, was it worth whatever else had to pass for our civilization to bring forth such genius? Can another member of our Homo sapiens family, in destitution and hunger for generations oppressed, can they say our enjoyment of our highest pinnacle achievements was worth their suffering and their ancestors suffering and their children’s suffering at the hands of our dominant culture? What of their choice to relieve suffering if only we had used our energy in a different way that may have allowed them to reach their own developmental potential? I cannot lie to a deepest truth that it is only my judgment that deems one being more worthy than another, the universe has none. If we are uberconscious, then we will also know that the universe has no judgment on our beingness or existence, it is only us looking at and contemplating ourselves in the mirror for this briefest of constructs called space and time. But since we have developed this mind and we have created our microuniverse within the macro, it is our responsibility to finish what we began, on every level. Overshoot and its repercussions is the stage set for our generations, we cannot shirk from finishing the show we have written, directed, and acted in. But there is also more to our human existence, and from the earliest times our inner desire has been to find our meaning and place in this cosmos. The present is the only time we ever have to continually seek and refine for ourselves what resonates, only now it seems of greatest urgency, at least to me. Maybe being born in the age of overshoot collapse has refocussed this for all of us here. And I do agree that reduction of suffering is a noblest goal and can manifest in myriad ways; kindness is always our choice.

Sidestepping Genetic Reality Denial by Manipulating Behavior for Overshoot Harm Reduction

It’s rare to encounter a new and constructive idea for addressing human overshoot that is not fatally flawed by a lack of understanding of either thermodynamic and geophysical constraints, or the strong genetic behavior to deny unpleasant realities that enabled the human species to emerge and dominate the planet.

For anyone still looking for technically feasible solutions that have a non-zero probability of success for reducing harms from human overshoot I recommend the most recent Planet: Critical podcast in which Rachel Donald interviews Joseph Merz.

https://www.planetcritical.com/p/urgency-action-and-ethics-joseph?s=r

There are no easy solutions to the climate crisis—most governments admit their hope lies in technology which doesn’t even exist yet. Science and “visionaries” propose increasingly mad ideas, like refreezing the Arctic, or sending humans to live in Space. But given the urgency of the situation, would we be mad not to consider these mad ideas?

Joseph Merz thinks we’ve run out of time to ask questions. He founded the Merz Institute to combat the climate crisis, gathering some of the world’s best scientists to establish what is going wrong and how to fix it. He says the answer is behavioural change—and they’re developing a programme that would manipulate mass behaviour on a subconscious level.

How? Well, using the same techniques as the advertising industry.

Key points made include:

  • It is too late to avoid suffering caused by human overshoot.
  • There may still be time to make the future less bad.
  • All actions we might take to reduce future suffering require changes in human behavior to consume less and have fewer children.
  • Information and education to date have proven completely ineffective at changing human behavior in a positive direction, and we are out of time to try new methods of education.
  • The advertising industry has developed technologies that are very effective at manipulating people to desire and acquire things they do not need to be happy, and in many cases cannot afford.
  • Merz proposes to redeploy these proven marketing technologies to manipulate people to desire happiness associated with lower consumption and fewer children.

Neither Rachel Donald or Joseph Merz appear aware of Varki’s Mind Over Reality Transition (MORT) theory but I’m thinking that Merz’s proposal might sidestep the fatal flaw in most other overshoot harm reduction proposals that require humans to first acknowledge the reality of their predicament, which appears to be impossible because of MORT.

The beauty of Merz’s plan is that it does not require reality awareness because it will manipulate humans at a subconscious level.

It will be interesting to see if the marketing technologies are powerful enough to override the Maximum Power Principle (MPP) which is another powerful genetic behavior that pushes us in an overshoot direction. I’m thinking (without any evidence or data) that it might be possible to override the MPP because we are such a strong social species.

Godspeed to Merz and screw the ethics.

P.S. I doubt it is true, but I observe that if you assume the WEF Great Reset has good intentions grounded in overshoot awareness, it is possible they are thinking along the same lines as Merz with their “you will own nothing and be happy” campaign. The WEF campaign does seem rather clumsy compared to say associating happiness with a Corona beer on a high-carbon long distance vacation. I think it is more likely the WEF is trying to prepare citizens for a Minsky moment in which much asset ownership will transfer to the state.

P.P.S. It’s fascinating that so many overshoot aware people are active in the small country of New Zealand.

By Bill Rees: On the Virtues of Self-Delusion—or maybe not!

Dr. Bill Rees, Professor Emeritus from the University of British Columbia, gave a presentation on our overshoot predicament earlier this month to a zoom meeting of the Canadian Association for the Club of Rome (CACOR).

I’m a longtime fan of Dr. Rees and consider him to be one of the most aware and knowledgeable people on the planet.

This is, I believe, the best talk I’ve seen by Dr. Rees and he covers all of the important issues, including topics like overpopulation that most of his peers avoid.

Presentations like this will probably not change our trajectory but nevertheless I find some comfort knowing there are a few other people thinking about the same issues. This can be a very lonely space.

The Q&A is also very good. I found it interesting to hear how much effort Dr. Rees has made to educate our leaders about what we should be doing to reduce future suffering. He was frank that no one to date, including the Green party, is open to his message. Not surprising, but sad. Also inspiring that someone of his stature is at least trying.

Summary

Climate-change and other environmental organizations urge governments to act decisively/rapidly to decarbonize the economy and halt further development of fossil fuel reserves. These demands arguably betray:

– ignorance of the role of energy in the modern economy;

– ill-justified confidence in society’s ability to transition to 100% green renewable energy;

– no appreciation of the ecological consequences of attempting to do so and;

– little understanding of the social implications.

Without questioning the need to abandon fossil fuels, I will argue that the dream of a smooth energy transition is little more than a comforting shared illusion. Moreover, even if it were possible it would not solve climate change and would exacerbate the real existential threat facing society, namely overshoot.

I then explore some of the consequences and implications of (the necessary) abandonment of fossil fuels in the absence of adequate substitutes, and how governments and MTI society should be responding to these unspoken biophysical realities.

Biography

Dr. William Rees is a population ecologist, ecological economist, Professor Emeritus, and former Director of the University of British Columbia’s School of Community and Regional Planning.

His academic research focuses on the biophysical prerequisites for sustainability. This focus led to co-development (with his graduate students) of ecological footprint analysis, a quantitative tool that shows definitively that the human enterprise is in dysfunctional overshoot. (We would need five Earth-like planets to support just the present world population sustainably with existing technologies at North American material standards.)

Frustrated by political unresponsiveness to worsening indicators, Dr. Rees also studies the biological and psycho-cognitive barriers to environmentally rational behavior and policies. He has authored hundreds of peer reviewed and popular articles on these topics. Dr. Rees is a Fellow of Royal Society of Canada and also a Fellow of the Post-Carbon Institute; a founding member and former President of the Canadian Society for Ecological Economics; a founding Director of the OneEarth Initiative; and a Director of The Real Green New Deal. He was a full member of the Club of Rome from 2013 until 2018. His international awards include the Boulding Memorial Award in Ecological Economics, the Herman Daly Award in Ecological Economics and a Blue Planet Prize (jointly with his former student, Dr. Mathis Wackernagel).

I left the following comment on YouTube:

I’m a fellow British Columbian and longtime admirer of Dr. Rees. Thank you for the excellent presentation.

I agree with Dr. Rees’ prescription for what needs to be done but I think there’s a step that must precede his first step of acknowledging our overshoot predicament.

Given the magnitude and many dimensions of our predicament an obvious question is why do so few people see it?

I found a theory by Dr. Ajit Varki that provides a plausible explanation, and answers other important questions about our unique species.

The Mind Over Reality Transition (MORT) theory posits that the human species with its uniquely powerful intelligence exists because it evolved to deny unpleasant realities.

If true, this implies that the first step to any positive meaningful change must be to acknowledge our tendency to deny unpleasant realities.

Varki explains his theory here:

https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F978-3-030-25466-7_6

A nice video summary by Varki is here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dqgYqW2Kgkg

My interpretations of the theory are here:
https://un-denial.com/denial-2/theory-short/

https://un-denial.com/2015/11/12/undenial-manifesto-energy-and-denial/

By Andrew Nikiforuk: Energy Dead-Ends: Green Lies, Climate Change and Chaotic Transitions

Canadian author and journalist Andrew Nikiforuk addressed our overshoot reality on November 17, 2021 at the University of Victoria.

It’s a brilliant must watch talk that touches on every important issue, except unfortunately Ajit Varki’s MORT theory and our genetic tendency to deny unpleasant realities. Nikiforuk does acknowledge that denial is an important force in our predicament.

It’s refreshing to find a journalist that understands what’s going on and that speaks plainly about what we must do.

Nikiforuk introduced a new idea (for me), the “technological imperium”:

…our biggest problem is a self-augmenting, ever-expanding technosphere, which has but one rule: to grow at any cost and build technological artifacts that efficiently dominate human affairs and the biosphere. The technological imperium consumes energy and materials in order to replace all natural systems with artificial ones dependent on high energy inputs and unmanageable complexity.

Nikiforuk seems to be implying that technology is the core problem and is driving the bus. Maybe. I think more likely advanced technology emerges as a consequence of unique intelligence (explained by MORT) coupled with fortuitous buried fossil energy, driven by a desire for infinite economic growth that arises from evolved behaviors expressing the Maximum Power Principle (MPP), all enabled by our genetic tendency to deny unpleasant realities, which causes us to ignore the costs of growth and technology. Regardless of which is the chicken and which is the egg, Nikiforuk is correct that technology has made our society very fragile, and is harming our social fabric.

An example Nikiforuk provided of the technological imperium is British Columbia’s trend of replacing sustainable natural salmon runs in rivers with fish farms that are totally dependent on non-renewable fossil energy and advanced technology. I’ve witnessed this first hand on the coast of Vancouver Island and it makes me sick to my stomach. I also witnessed how hard it is to oppose the technological imperium when a political party here was elected on a promise to close fish farms and then reneged after being elected.

As an aside, the technological imperium idea gave me a new insight into the covid mass psychosis of most rich countries and their obsession with a single high tech “solution” to covid while aggressively opposing all other less energy intensive, less risky, and lower tech responses.  

Nikiforuk began his talk with a quote I like from C.S. Lewis:

If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth, only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.

I observe sadly that this must watch video has only 160 views, 3 of which are mine. 😦

Here are a few other ideas and quotes I captured while watching the talk:

  • “We have all but destroyed this once salubrious planet as a life support system in fewer than 200 years mainly by making thermodynamic whoopee with fossil fuels.” – Kurt Vonnegut
  • “Our political class is in a complete state of denial and will not act until things get much worse. You can expect more blah blah blah.”
  • “Energy spending determines greenhouse gas emissions. We only want to talk about emissions, we need to talk about energy spending.”
  • “We must contract the global economy by at least 40%.”
  • “We can choose a managed energy decent, something few civilizations have ever achieved, or we can face collapse.”
  • “People who do not face the truth turn themselves into monsters”. – James Baldwin
  • “In sum, expect extreme volatility and political unrest in the years ahead along with atmospheric rivers, heat domes, and burning forests.”
  • “We are now at revolutionary levels of inequality everywhere.”
  • “We are being fed 5 green lies because we do not want to discuss economic growth and population:
    • dematerialize the economy;
    • direct air capture;
    • carbon capture and storage;
    • hydrogen;
    • electric cars.”
  • “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” – Frank Herbert
  • Conversations we avoid or deny:
    • Population
      • “There is no problem on earth that does not become easier to manage with fewer people. We don’t want to admit this, we don’t want to talk about this.”
      • We are currently using up the renewable resources of 1.7 earths and unless things change we’ll need 3 earths by 2050.
    • Energy Blindness
      • Our energy is so cheap and convenient it has blinded us to its true ecological, political, and social costs.
      • “Energy has always been the basis of cultural complexity and it always will be.” – Joseph Tainter
      • A single tomato today requires 10 tablespoons of diesel to grow it.
    • The Technosphere
      • An energy dissipating superorganism that destroys natural systems and replaces them with artificial systems dependent on high energy technologies.
        • Wild salmon running in rivers are replaced with fish farms.
        • Wetlands are replaced with water filtration projects.
        • Old growth forests are replaced with tree plantations.
      • Technology is to this civilization what the catholic church was to 14th century France, the dominant institution that controls every aspect of your life.
      • “A major fact of our present civilization is that more and more sin becomes collective, and the individual is forced to participate in collective sin.” – Jacques Ellul
      • “A low energy policy allows for a wide choice of lifestyles and cultures. If on the other hand a society opts for high energy spending its social relations must be dictated by technocracy and will be equally degrading whether labelled capitalist or socialist.” – Ivan Illich
    • Civilizations Do Collapse
      • Life is a cycle, it is not a linear path.
      • We have peaked and are now entering a phase of incredible volatility.
      • Every citizen needs to know the consequences of bad policy. Percent death on the Titanic by class was:
        • 39% first class
        • 58% second class
        • 76% steerage
  • What should you do with this awareness?
    • Withdraw from the fray of the Technosphere.
    • Do something to help preserve the natural world.
    • Get your hands dirty doing real work in nature.
    • Insist that creation has a value beyond utility.
      • “Think, less” – Wendell Berry
    • Build refuges and prepare for the storms ahead.
    • Wake each morning and ask yourself what you can give to this world rather than what you can take.
  • Comments and answers from the Q&A:
    • “The worst thing about the pandemic was that so many people and so many children were forced to spend so much time with colonizing machines.”
    • “We have to get a political conversation going about contracting the economy.” This won’t happen at the central government level but might happen within individual communities.
    • “Chance favors the prepared mind.”
    • “The only way we can get out of this mess without sacrificing millions and millions of people is to power down.”

Two weeks later, Nikiforuk reflected on his talk and responded to questions:

https://thetyee.ca/Analysis/2021/12/06/Andrew-Nikiforuk-Getting-Real-About-Our-Crises/

Two weeks ago, I gave a talk at the University of Victoria arguing that our morally bankrupt civilization is chasing dead ends when it comes to climate change and energy spending.

I argued that by focusing on emissions, we have failed to acknowledge economic and population growth as the primary driver of those emissions along with the unrestrained consumption of natural systems that support all life.

I added that people plus affluence plus technology make a deadly algorithm that is now paving our road to collective ruin.

As Ronald Wright noted in his book A Short History of Progress, civilization is a pyramid scheme that depends on cancerous rates of growth.

I also explained that many so-called green technologies including renewables, hydrogen and carbon capture and storage are not big solutions. Because they require rare earth minerals and fossil fuels for their production and maintenance, these technologies shift problems around.

In addition these green technologies cannot be scaled up in time to cut emissions or require too much energy to make any difference at all.

I also emphasized that our biggest problem is a self-augmenting, ever-expanding technosphere, which has but one rule: to grow at any cost and build technological artifacts that efficiently dominate human affairs and the biosphere. The technological imperium consumes energy and materials in order to replace all natural systems with artificial ones dependent on high energy inputs and unmanageable complexity.

This technological assault on the biosphere and our consciousness has greatly weakened our capacity to pay attention to what matters, let alone how to think. The result is a highly polarized and anxious society that can’t imagine its own collapse let alone the hazards of its own destructive thinking.

The best response to this constellation of emergencies is to actively shrink the technosphere and radically reduce economic growth and energy spending. Our political class can’t imagine such a conversation.

At the same time, communities and families must re-localize their lives, disconnect from the global machine and actively work to restore degraded ecosystems such as old-growth forests. Anyone who expects an “easy fix” or convenient set of solutions has spent too much time being conditioned by digital machines.

My cheerful talk generated scores of questions. There wasn’t time to answer them, so I selected five representative queries submitted via Zoom in the interest of keeping this heretical conversation going.

Growth in population tied to consumption is a big problem

Many listeners expressed disquiet about population growth being an essential part of the problem. “I am disappointed that once again Malthus has entered the room when the difference between per capita emissions for GHGs between the Global North and Global South are significant. Isn’t it how we live not how many of us there are?” asked one.

The real answer is uncomfortable. How we live and consume matters just as much as the growing density of our numbers combined with the proliferation of our machines that devour energy on our behalf. (Roads and cell phones all consume energy and materials too.) All three demographic issues are increasing at unsustainable rates and feed each other to propel more economic growth, more emissions and more fragility.

The world’s current population is 7.9 billion and grows by 80 million a year. It has slowed down in recent years because the affluent don’t need the energy of children as much as the poor. Even so civilization will add another billion to the planet every dozen years. Redistributing energy wealth (and emissions) from the rich to the poor will not avert disaster if human populations don’t overall decline.

Our numbers also reflect a demographic anomaly that began with fossil fuels, a cheap energy source that served as Viagra for the species. Prior to our discovery of fossil fuels, the population of the planet never exceeded one billion. Our excessive numbers are purely a temporary artifact of cheap energy spending and all that it entails — everything from fertilizer to modern medicine.

Isn’t capitalism the real threat?

Many questions revolved around the nature of capitalism. “Wouldn’t it be more accurate to denounce the capitalist organization of technology rather than technology as such for problems like polarization and fragmentation?”

No, it would not. Technology emphasizes growth and concentrates power regardless of the ideology.

Capitalism, like socialism and communism, is simply a way to use energy to create technologies that structure society in homogeneous ways. Removing capitalism from the equation would not change the totalitarian nature of technology itself. Or the ability of technologies to colonize local cultures anywhere.

Every ideology on Earth, to date, has used technologies to strengthen their grip on power by enmeshing their citizens in complexity and reducing humanity to a series of efficiencies. All have supported digital infrastructure to monitor and survey their citizens. As the sociologist Jacques Ellul noted long ago ideologies don’t count in the face of technological imperative.

What comes next?

Many listeners asked if “there is a sequel to the energy-rich market economy?” I have no crystal ball but here is my response.

There will always be some kind of sequel and it is not written. But there is no replacement for cheap fossil fuels and their density and portability. They made our complex civilization what it is. As fossil fuel resources become ever more expensive and difficult to extract (a reality the media ignores), the “rich market economy” will experience more volatility, inequality, disruptions, corruption and inflation. It is rare for any civilization to manage an energy descent without violence let alone grace.

“Can you say more about the connection between the technosphere and totalitarian societies?” asked one listener. “How do you see connections between dictatorships and the technosphere?”

This is a subject for a much longer essay. The technosphere, by definition, offers only one system of thinking and operating (triumph of technique over all endeavors) and has been eroding human freedoms for decades. It simply creates dependents or inmates. Social influencers now tell its residents what to buy and how to behave. As such the technosphere has become an all-encompassing environment for citizens whether they be so-called democracies or totalitarian societies.

The major difference between the two is simply the degree to which techniques have been applied to give the state more total control over its citizens. In both democratic societies and totalitarian ones, technical elites actively mine citizens for data so that information can be used to engineer, monitor and survey the behavior of their anxious and unhappy citizens in a technological society. (You can’t live in a technological society without becoming an abstraction.) The Chinese state does not hide its intentions; the West still clings to its illusions of freedom.

The technosphere corrupts language

One listener wanted to know “more about the empty language” employed by the technosphere as I mentioned in my talk.

Just as the technosphere has replaced bird song with digital beeps, the technological imperium has increasingly replaced meaningful language with techno-speak.

A world dominated by reductionist and mechanistic thinking has produced its own Lego-like language completely divorced from natural reality. Decades ago the German linguist Uwe Poerksen called this new evolving language “plastic words.”

They include words like environment, process, organization, structure, development, identity and care. All can be effortlessly combined to convey bullshit: “the development of the environment with care is a process.” This modular language creates its own tyranny of meaningless expression.

Experts, technicians, politicians and futurists employ this plastic language to baffle, confuse and obfuscate. Poerksen notes these words are pregnant with money, lack historical dimension and refer to no local or special place. This language, divorced from all context, does to thinking what a bulldozer does to a forest. It flattens it.

Hope is not a pill you take in the morning or a crumb left at the table

Last but not least many listeners asked how do we maintain hope in the face of so many emergencies, abuses and appalling political leadership?

“How do you get up in the morning?” typically asked one.

This frequent question confounds and puzzles me. My humble job as a journalist is not to peddle soft soap or cheerlead for ideologies and futurists. My job is not to manufacture hope let alone consent. I have achieved something small if I can help readers differentiate between what matters and what doesn’t and highlight the power implications in between.

Yet in a technological society most everyone seeks an easy, canned message pointing to a bright future. I cannot in good conscience tell anyone, let alone my own children, that the days ahead will be happy or bright ones. To everything there is a season and our civilization has now, step by step, entered a season of discord and chaos. History moves like life itself in a cycle of birth, life, death and renewal.

Jacques Ellul, who wrote prophetically about the inherent dangers of technological society, also addressed the need for authentic hope because it does not reside in the technosphere. The technosphere, a sterile prison, may promise to design your future with plastic words, but what it really offers is the antithesis of hope.

Ellul, a radical Christian, wrote deeply much about hope and freedom. He noted that hope never abandons people who care about a place and are rooted outside the technosphere for they will always know what to do by their real connection to real things. He adds that hope cannot be divorced from the virtues of faith and love. Like all virtues they must be quietly lived, not daily signalled.

For Ellul, hope was a combination of vigilant expectation, prayer and realism. “Freedom is the ethical expression of the person who hopes,” he once wrote.

Hope is living fully in a place you care about and acting against the abuse of power every day. Hope, in other words, is using every initiative “to restore the possibility of people making their own decisions.”

P.S. This talk inspired me to make my first donation to a news source, The Tyee, for which in 2010 Nikiforuk became its first writer in residence.

Water is flowing uphill. Why?

El gato malo does more intelligent analysis in a week than the idiots in our governments do in a year.

Today’s analysis suggests Dr. Geert Vanden Bossche was correct in predicting that applying a leaky vaccine effective at preventing sickness in the middle of a pandemic was a very bad idea.

https://boriquagato.substack.com/p/are-leaky-vaccines-driving-delta

all a virus wants is to replicate. “make a copy of me and pass it on.” that’s the biological imperative of the selfish gene. excel at it, you win. fail, you disappear. simple as that.

killing or harming the host is maladaptive to viral spread. it’s like burning down your own house with your car in the garage. now you have nowhere to live and no way to get around. that’s not a recipe for reproductive fitness.

so viruses evolve to become less, not more virulent. they do not want to kill you. ideally, they’d like to help you. figure out how to be a useful symbiote, and you get a huge boost in propagation. (mitochondria were probably bacteria that were so useful, all our cells incorporated them.)

so seeing case fatality rate (CFR) rise in a variant of a virus is like watching water flow uphill. it’s not supposed to do that and when it does, you need to suspect some external force acting on it.

and we’re seeing water flow uphill here.

Key points:

  • Case Fatality Rate (CFR) is rising for Delta and is probably not caused by Antibody Dependent Enhancement (ADE) or Original Antigenic Sin (OAS) because CFR is rising in both vaccinated and unvaccinated, and is not rising in previously infected, and Vaccine Efficacy (VE) for deaths remains good.
  • The most probable explanation is Vaccine Mediated Evolution (VME) in which a leaky vaccine that keeps the host healthy causes the virus to evolve to a more deadly variant.
  • Vaccine Efficacy (VE) on spread is negative (bad) because infected people don’t know they’re infected which accelerates spread.
  • Everyone is harmed but unvaccinated are worse off creating the illusion that the vaccines are a good idea.

it’s just simple math. if we do something to one group that makes their death rate rise from 1 to 2 per 100 but that also makes the death rate in another group rise from 1 to 4 per 100, that looks like a VE of 50%. in reality, it’s killing 100% more vaxxed people and 300% more of the unvaxxed.

mistaking that gas pedal for the brake and pushing ever harder when you fail to slow would represent an accelerating disaster curve.

I like that el gato malo seeks to prove himself wrong. That’s a strong signal for someone with integrity and intelligence that we should trust.

it’s still, or course, possible that i’m wrong, but this is looking more and more like it has to be the answer. i can find nothing else fits the facts and the facts themselves are weird enough that “it’s just normal” does not look like a satisfying explanation either and we have enough features here that we can really start testing our puzzle pieces. this one aligns in an AWFUL lot of places.

for something this odd to happen, it takes a truly uncommon exogenous stressor.

i’m just not seeing what else it could be than vaccine mediated selection for hotter variants driving pernicious delta evolution.

so, i’m putting this out to you all to see if you can find some other explanation for what’s going on that fits these facts.

looking forward to the peer review as, honestly, i hope i’m wrong here. this is not an outcome that anyone wants. it’s the nightmare scenario both as a pandemic and as a political horror in the making as if this was an “own-goal”, what would the experts and politicians that pushed this plan not be willing to do to avoid accepting the blame?

because this is career or pharma franchise polonium, and that’s if you’re lucky.

I also very much like that el gato malo does not subscribe to crazy conspiracies that lack evidence. I would of course augment el gato malo’s explanation by including an element of genetic reality denial in our leaders.

“But what is the end game if purposefully designed this way?”

i don’t think it was. i think these fools really thought mRNA and adenovirus carrier vaccines would be sterilizing.

they pushed them as herd immunity.

having it all fall apart cornered them but by the time they knew it, they were “pot committed” and had already vaxxed 100’s of millions of people.

this has been this shiny tech they have been trying to make work (and recoup money on) for decades and failing over and over.

i doubt this was deliberate. it was just stunningly arrogant and reckless.

So now the million dollar question:

Assuming a better explanation does not emerge, what should an unvaccinated person do?

Prioritizing self-preservation this analysis suggests one should either:

  • get vaccinated, or
  • acquire natural immunity by deliberately getting infected before the variants become more deadly, and apply early treatment protocols to maximize the probability of a successful recovery.

Choosing to get vaccinated makes the most sense if:

  • you are in a high risk group (old or obese)
  • you do not care about worsening the overall outcome for both vaccinated and unvaccinated.

Choosing natural immunity makes the most sense if:

  • you are in a low risk group
  • you are concerned about the yet to be established long term health effects of the novel vaccines
  • you want to be a good citizen and do what is best for everyone.

I’m old but not obese which makes the choice difficult.

I’m going to watch the data and hope for a better explanation to emerge for a while longer before making a decision.

You can’t make this shit up: observe that our “leaders” are pushing hard in exactly the opposite direction of what wise leaders would do if this VME hypothesis is correct:

  • stop further vaccination of low risk people
  • start collecting the data necessary to prove or disprove this hypothesis
  • promote healthy immune systems (vitamin D, weight loss, etc.)
  • aggressively evaluate and deploy promising early treatment protocols (Ivermectin etc.)
  • aggressively investigate root causes and modify policies to prevent a recurrence.

One more observation to make you admire our “leaders” even less:

the same NIH that was funding the GoF research in wuhan miraculously had the viral code to drop into the moderna mRNA vaccine in under 2 weeks.

that always smelled like a sushi bar dumpster.

https://boriquagato.substack.com/p/were-some-folks-a-little-too-prepared

17-Oct-2021 Addition

In a paper today, Dr. Geert Vanden Bossche argues that boosters will probably boost the virulence of Delta rather than long term protection from severe disease.

Israel is misreading their booster results by only tracking booster effectiveness for 12 days.

https://www.geertvandenbossche.org/post/what-happens-if-israel-fails-the-stress-test

17-Oct-2021 Addition

El gato malo reviewed new UK data today which supports his Vaccine Mediated Evolution (VME) hypothesis.

Rate of cases down 30% from a year ago. CFR up 3x since June.

getting 50% protection from a tripling in virulence caused by the vaccines is still a net loser for the vaccinated. and it’s savage for the unvaccinated. everyone loses. and this evolution is ongoing.

establishing what is going on here should be the all hands on deck mission of global public health right now.

none of us want to be living in the world where we leaky-vaxxed ourselves into a second pandemic by reversing the evolution of one that was about to go endemic and harmless.

that’s a terrible place to be.

but if that IS where we are, we need to know, and we need to know right now.

https://boriquagato.substack.com/p/is-this-the-smoking-gun-for-leaky

I keep searching for a rational reason for the obsession with 100% vaccination, other than assuming every health official in every country of the world is corrupt, because that seems improbable.

What if they’re aware of the Vaccine Mediated Evolution (VME) trend and know that their mistake of vaccinating more than the high risk with a leaky vaccine will kill many more unvaccinated than vaccinated?

They can’t disclose the real reason for the push for 100% because they would lose their credibility and jobs.

This would also explain why they’re so willing to accept possible long term vaccine side effects in low risk children.

It’s analogous to continuing to print money long after it no longer provides a net benefit, because you know if you stop many will be harmed on your watch, and if you continue, many more may be harmed in the future, but it will be on someone else’s watch, and maybe someone will think of something by then.

21-Oct-2021 Addition

A fresh, intelligent, clean sheet, big picture review of vaccine efficacy vs. risk. I remain impressed with el gato malo’s productivity and clarity of thought.

https://boriquagato.substack.com/p/properly-measuring-vaccine-efficacy

– measuring vaccine efficacy as % reduction in likelihood of severe outcomes can be misleading

– we must also measure absolute risk reduction. 50% drop from 20% risk is very different from 50% drop on 0.2% risk

– vaccines seem to show % efficacy in reducing hospitalization and death

– but for the young, healthy, and recovered, risk was already so low that the absolute drop does not look like good risk/reward vs side effect profile of the vaccines

– vaccines do not provide sterilizing protection against spread and seem to make it worse. there is no case to be made for societal obligation to vaccinate to protect others.

– mandating vaccination rather than allowing personal choice based on individual circumstance will inflict net harm on a great many people

– that’s immoral and represents medical malpractice

book review by AJ: Our One and Only Spaceship: Denial, Delusion and the Population Crisis by Eric Pianka & Laurie Vitt (2019)

Thanks to AJ for contributing this book review.

https://oneandonlyspaceship.com/

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/our-one-and-only-spaceship-eric-pianka/1133496721?ean=9781733030533

Publisher’s Summary

Ecologists Eric R. Pianka (University of Texas) and Laurie J. Vitt (University of Oklahoma) provide a scientific summary of the overpopulation crisis facing humanity and itemize its many consequences, including climate change (global warming), conservation biology, economic systems, energy and resource shortages, human instincts, immigration conflicts, politics, pollution, poverty, technological problems, and solutions needed. Their underlying thesis is that denial and delusion work synergistically to undermine our ability to confront these serious issues, and unless we undertake proactive measures now, overpopulation and its impact on resource competition and climate change will ultimately lead to the collapse of civilization.

Authors’ Overview

In Road to Survival 70 years ago, William Vogt tried to call attention to the human overpopulation crisis, but failed. Paul Ehrlich raised this issue again 20 years later but was also widely ignored. We wish to re-open this long overdue and much needed discussion about population, a toxic topic that politicians globally avoid. We have written a book “Our One and Only Spaceship:Denial, Delusion and the Population Crisis.” We are two well-known ecologists Eric R. Pianka (University of Texas) and Laurie J. Vitt (University of Oklahoma).

Our book is based on a great deal of research that we have conducted into the topic and on a course that Pianka taught. http://www.zo.utexas.edu/courses/THOC/

We have edited and written books together, both scientific and semi-popular. Using fact-based analyses, we make the case that human population size and growth is the greatest threat to human survival, and that most if not every major global problem (including spread of AIDS and other communicable diseases, wars and other conflicts, climate change and in particular global warming, food water and energy shortages, poverty, political unrest, pollution, extinctions, etc.) are all direct results of overpopulation. Our birth rate far exceeds our death rate and the current global population of 7.7 billion in itself is unsustainable even without additional growth. This has put us on a collision course with disaster. It is perilous to remain in denial about all of the threats emanating from overpopulation.

As we become ever more and more desperate in trying to provide resources necessary to meet critical demands, our environmental problems will only worsen as we continue to deregulate thus allowing increased exploitation of dwindling natural resources. The thin skin of life on our planet is seriously threatened by the actions of a single species, Homo sapiens. Remarkably, even with our putative high intelligence, we don’t seem to be able to even admit that the problem is population such that discussions can begin on how to stop population growth. One thing is certain, it must and will stop—either we can do it through a series of logical steps (educating the public, coming up with a global plan, implementing the plan), or it will occur as the result of a combination of wars over resources, spread of infectious disease, or even famine. Such a discussion will have a greater impact on human survival than any of the many news stories currently dominating our media.

Overpopulation has only one outcome, and we have all seen it when mold takes over an orange—unlike mold growing on an orange, we do not have another “orange” to which we can send our offspring (There is no planet B). We are fully aware that discussions on population are “politically incorrect” and will be extremely sensitive to many people (especially religious groups) who take up arms in response to any discussion to limit reproduction. The ultimate biological reason for this response is simply that our genes control much of what we do, and reproduction is the currency of future generations. A more proximate reason is simply that our hormonal systems kick in when we reach puberty and all reason is washed away in the maelstrom of hormonal activity pushing us to reproduce. We must do something — ignoring our pressing problem and expecting it to go away is like hoping in vain to win the mega-lottery.

AJ’s Review

This is my brief review of the book, “Our One and Only Spaceship” subtitled “Denial, Delusion and the Population Crisis” written by Drs. Eric Pianka and Laurie Vitt. Copyright 2019.

I came across this book through one of the comments on your website. Since it was one of the few books that concerned population (in the title) I decided to buy it and read it.

The authors are ecologists. Dr. Eric Pianka is a Professor at UT Austin and Dr. Laurie Vitt is a Professor Emeritus at the University of Oklahoma, Norman. The forward was by Paul & Anne Ehrlich.

I overall liked the book. My feeling is that it is somewhat like Tom Murphy’s book and was intended for an intro college course in ecology/sustainability (without the math). That said I never had the impression that the authors were talking down to the reader.

There is some hope in this book. “This generation will be the last with decision-making powers to save our spaceship for all future earth-lings, including human beings.” But as the authors state in the Prologue, “The problem can be easily framed in three words, population, population, and population.” Human civilization is in overshoot and that we in the west are living far beyond the carrying capacity of the planet is covered in detail. So, the problem is both overshoot and population.  

There is an acknowledgement that denial and optimism bias are part of our problem. But, I think that the authors are also in a little denial, “If humans are to survive into the next century, we need to reduce population growth, convert to renewable energy sources, use much less energy overall, and develop a plan for the future this is based on fact and not on fiction.” Their opinion is that we can maintain much of our technology (through “green” tech transition) and slowly reduce population with education and enlightenment. I don’t know if they really believe this or like Tom Murphy need to give students something positive to live for in the face of a depressing predicament.

Don’t get me wrong. This book touched all the right notes and I only disagreed with a tiny bit of it. I thought that the preface/into to the last chapter was perhaps the best quote I have seen on our place in the universe (other than Rob’s quote):

“Man did not have forever to harness the forces of the sun and stars. The Sun was an elderly light, long past the turbulent heat of youth, and would some day join the senile class of once-luminiferous bodies. In some incredibly remote time a chance collision might blow it up again into incandescent gas and start a new local cosmic cycle, but of man there would be no trace. In Balfours’s terms, he “will go down into the pit, and all his thoughts will perish. The uneasy consciousness, which in this obscure corner has for a brief space broken the contented silence of the universe, will be at rest. Matter will know itself no longer. ‘Imperishable monuments’ and ‘immortal deeds,’ death itself, and love stronger than death, will be as though they had never been. Nor will anything that IS be better or worse for all that labour, genius, devotion and suffering of man have striven through countless generation to effect.” –Homer Smith (1952) “Man and His Gods” and Earl Balfour (1895) “Foundations of Belief”

Eric Pianka on Kurt Vonnegut‘s Requiem:

From a presentation by Eric Pianka:

Descending Into Madness

I think our society is going mad because there are so many overshoot related problems converging at once that our inherited denial mechanism is overloaded, with no leaders who understand what’s going on, few experts willing to speak publicly, and no honest discussion about what’s happening, nor what we should do.

I expect something will snap soon in a bad way.

Symptoms I see include:

  • We talk about everything except what matters. For example, our climate has shifted a gear, and peak oil is behind us, yet there is zero discussion about food security or the need for population reduction.
  • We’ve polarized into tribes that are unable to contemplate or respect or discuss the beliefs of another tribe. We attack or ignore opponents rather than engage in respectful debate. We’ve always tended to do this, but it’s getting worse.
  • Facts are irrelevant to beliefs. When facts are unsure or complex we are unable to admit uncertainty. While common throughout history, this phenomenon is getting worse, and is now pervasive in our intellectual leaders.
  • We’re totally dependent for everything we need to survive from other countries that we now view as enemies, yet we never discuss the need for more resilience.
  • We embrace solutions that have zero probability of improving a problem. Think green new deal.
  • Our response to problems often worsens the outcome. For example, printing trillions to further inflate a bubble that when it pops will do additional damage to that which we’re trying to protect.
  • We embrace leaders who created a problem to fix a problem, and there are no longer consequences for illegal or unethical behavior. Think Fauci.

This excellent new video has many useful insights despite the producers not being aware of Varki’s Mind Over Reality Transition (MORT) theory.

MASS PSYCHOSIS – How an Entire Population Becomes MENTALLY ILL

A mass psychosis is an epidemic of madness and it occurs when a large portion of the society loses touch with reality and descends into delusions.

Totalitarianism is the greatest threat.

Reality Blind by Nate Hagens and DJ White

Nate Hagens has published a new book on the predicament that fossil energy consumption and depletion, and our denial of this reality, have created for life on this planet.

A skim suggests the book will be excellent and I hope to write a review after reading it.

I observe there is no mention of Varki’s Mind Over Reality Transition (MORT) theory which is sad because MORT provides an evolutionary foundation for the denial that Nate discusses, and explains why only one species has emerged with the intelligence to exploit fossil energy.

Denial of our genetic tendency to deny reality is apparently the strongest form of denial, even among the few of us that are aware of the human predicament.

You can read Nate’s book for free and purchase a copy here:

https://read.realityblind.world/view/975731937/i/

In case you missed it, this year’s annual Earth Day talk by Nate is on the same topic and is a masterpiece.

Denial with Cortical Columns

I just finished the new book by Jeff Hawkins titled “A Thousand Brains: A New Theory of Intelligence”.

A bestselling author, neuroscientist, and computer engineer unveils a theory of intelligence that will revolutionize our understanding of the brain and the future of AI. 

For all of neuroscience’s advances, we’ve made little progress on its biggest question: How do simple cells in the brain create intelligence? 

Jeff Hawkins and his team discovered that the brain uses maplike structures to build a model of the world-not just one model, but hundreds of thousands of models of everything we know. This discovery allows Hawkins to answer important questions about how we perceive the world, why we have a sense of self, and the origin of high-level thought. 

A Thousand Brains heralds a revolution in the understanding of intelligence. It is a big-think book, in every sense of the word.

I’ve followed Hawkins for many years and he’s one of my favorite neuroscience researchers. He started as an electrical engineer and created in 1996 the groundbreaking handheld PalmPilot (which I owned 🙂 ), and then switched careers to his passion of figuring out how the brain works.

In his book he proposes a new theoretical framework for how intelligence works. I think he’s on to something important. So does Richard Dawkins who wrote the forward and compares the book to Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species.

I see an opportunity to build on Hawkins’ intelligence framework to push Varki’s MORT theory forward by refining why and what we deny, and how denial is implemented in the brain. Some of my still rough ideas are presented at the end of this essay.

There’s a second aspect of Hawkins’ book that is also interesting.

After presenting his new theory on intelligence, Hawkins spends the last half of the book explaining how our old brain behaviors and false beliefs (aka denial) threaten the survival of our species, and he proposes several ways we might avoid these threats.

He’s clearly worried and knows we are in trouble.

Yet when discussing the threats to our species he is blind to the biggest, imminent, and certain threat we face: fossil energy depletion. Hawkins, like most polymaths, can’t see that the technology he loves, was created by, and totally depends on, rapidly depleting non-renewable resources.

So we have a world expert on how and why our brain creates false beliefs, that can’t see his own false beliefs.

We could ask for no better evidence that MORT is true! 

But wait, there’s more.

In the last chapters Hawkins obsesses over inventing a lasting means for our species to signal to other life in the universe that human intelligence once existed. As I was reading this I kept thinking, what the hell are you going on about? The odds are extremely low that other intelligent life will ever see our signaling satellites, and who the hell cares if they do? Then a light went on. His signal is a high tech version of an Egyptian pyramid, and is his brain’s mechanism for denying death.

So how could it get any better?

  • a well written enjoyable book
  • with an important new theory
  • on the most interesting aspect of a unique species
  • that may push forward Varki’s MORT theory on why we exist
  • by a brilliant polymath
  • that is blinded by the same denial that created his species

Following is a brief recapitulation of Hawkins’ cortical column framework for intelligence integrated with my musings on how it might be used to clarify and focus Varki’s MORT theory.

This hypothesis will be revised, possibly substantially, after I complete a 2nd more careful reading of Hawkins’ book and published papers, which I’ve just started. I’m also hoping to incorporate criticism from Dr. Varki which may improve or kill my ideas.

Downvoting the Cortical Column Death Model to Breach the Extended Theory of Mind Barrier

Version 1.2, April 17, 2021

Note: For the sake of brevity, every occurrence of “not die” should be read as “not die until viable offspring are produced”.

  • Genes evolve and collaborate to create bodies.
  • Bodies exist to replicate genes.
  • A body must not die to achieve its purpose of replicating genes.
  • The brain exists to help the body by choosing the best action to not die for a given set of sensory inputs.
  • The old brain uses simple static models to directly cause actions to not die.
  • The neocortex uses more complex learned models to indirectly cause actions to not die by requesting the old brain to execute actions.
  • Learning is moving: the neocortex learns by moving senses around the subject to create (up to about 1000) reference frame models.
  • Thinking is moving: concepts without physical form, like mathematics, are learned by moving between models to create new reference frame models.
  • Models have redundancy which makes knowledge more resilient and repurposable.
  • Models are stored in cortical columns.
  • The neocortex is composed of many nearly identical cortical columns.
  • Senses (and outputs from other models) are evaluated for matches by models.
  • Models collaborate by voting to decide our conscious reality.
  • The agreed reality is used by other models to select the best action to not die.
  • Evolution increases the number of cortical columns in species that benefit from more intelligence to not die.
  • Social species have the most cortical columns because modeling social relationships is hard.
  • The human neocortex has about 150,000 cortical columns.
  • There are two important thresholds on the continuum of increasing social intelligence.
  • “Theory of mind” is the threshold where a brain learns a model of another brain, and that model includes an understanding that the other brain can die.
  • “Extended theory of mind” is the threshold where a brain learns that its model of another brain also models itself, and that it can also die.
  • The extended theory of mind threshold may be difficult for evolution to cross, because it has happened only once on this planet.
  • A model that predicts possible death from injury and certain death from old age results in fewer actions to not die.
  • Fewer actions to not die is called depression.
  • Genes for an extended theory of mind thus do not persist.
  • To break through the barrier, evolution requires a mechanism to prevent the learned death model from evaluating true.
  • A mechanism consistent with the archeological record was to learn a model for life after death (aka God) which downvotes the death model thus continuing the actions to not die.

Modern Implications of the Death Model

  • Climate change acceptance combined with the common false belief that renewable energy can replace depleting non-renewable fossil energy, and the common false belief that technology can remove sufficient CO2 from the atmosphere, does not trigger the death model, and the false beliefs cause our species to take actions that worsen our overshoot predicament.
  • Awareness of human overshoot and its implications are present in less than 0.01% of humans, including most highly educated polymaths, because it triggers the death model. Most people deny overshoot with false beliefs that non-renewable resources are abundant.

Crash Course Crash: On Making a Living from Overshoot Education

Chris Martenson yesterday unveiled what has been going on behind the scenes at Peak Prosperity.

I salute Martenson’s honesty for explaining how difficult it has been to make a living from overshoot education.

As an aside, I don’t think he’s aware of it, but the reason it’s so hard to teach overshoot is explained by Varki’s MORT theory.

It seems there were 3 key problems at Peak Prosperity:

  • insufficient revenue from selling overshoot education;
  • one partner who wanted to focus on science based journalism, and one partner who wanted to focus on how to profit from the coming economic collapse;
  • a threat to revenue from YouTube’s censorship of Martenson’s excellent science based COVID-19 journalism.

Martenson shared something that troubles me (even more than I already was) about out future:

I created the Crash Course in 2008 because it didn’t exist. I’m proud of all that the Crash Course has accomplished – without it Peak Prosperity would never have come into being – and while it represents some of the best work of my life (so far), if it didn’t already exist I would not invest the time to create the Crash Course today.

Why not? Because the world has changed and I don’t think it would be even slightly receptive to that material now. The Crash Course had a huge impact in 2008. My assessment is that today it would fall flat and gain little traction. The programming against critical thinking and independent thought is too pervasive and successful. In brief, from my perspective, the world has gone a bit mad. It’s lost its grip on reality.

In case you aren’t aware of it, Martenson’s Crash Course is the best introduction to our overshoot predicament available anywhere. It was instrumental on my personal journey to awareness, and I thank Martenson for his excellent work.

There are two dimensions to his statement that trouble me.

First, Martenson is saying that citizens today are less interested in understanding reality than they were 10 years ago. It’s a concern because to reduce future suffering we need the overshoot awareness trend to be increasing rather than decreasing. The more we grow our population, deplete critical resources, degrade ecosystems, and inflate our debt bubble, the greater the eventual suffering we will experience. By denying an unpleasant reality we are making the eventual reality more unpleasant.

Although I think I understand the underlying reason for this trend, which is that our genetic tendency to deny reality is proportional to the unpleasantness of the reality, and our predicament today is much much worse than it was 10 years ago, it still deeply troubles me.

Second, Martenson is saying that if he were to start Peak Prosperity today he would not invest the time to create the Crash Course because insufficient people would pay for it.

Martenson is one of only two individuals out of eight billion (the other being Nate Hagens) that has taken the time to create a high quality video course on everything every citizen should understand to be a good citizen.

And he says he wouldn’t do it again because no one would watch it.

What else is there to say than WASF.