The End is Near

For at least the last thousand years, western society has always had a hard core of doom-sayers who like to climb to the rooftops to shout that the end of the world is close at hand.  I am not a good enough student of history to know if this is a predictably human trait, or if it is uniquely tied to western religions like Christianity.  Certainly the Medieval millenarian streak was tied closely to the prophesies of Christianity.

Whether initially Christian or not, end-of-the-worldism is now the provenance of many fringe secular groups, not the least of which are the environmentalists.  In fact, the current global warming panic fits right into a long history of end-of-the-worldism, though I also think it has strong elements of socialism and youth culture guilt and lacks the optimism of Christian millenarianism.

Today's humorous does of doom comes right here from Arizona, via professor Guy McPherson of the University of Arizona.  Incredibly, our local media treats this interview straight up, without even the snark they would bring to, say, the article they wrote about me and other local climate skeptics.

First, let me explain Empire: We exploit humans and resources, often
with extreme violence, to provide Americans with indulgences beyond
belief to most people.

Had we started the project of powering down at least 30 years ago,
there might still be time. At this point, I cannot imagine any steps
that could allow us to avoid a meltdown of the economy or a relatively
rapid transition into the post-industrial Stone Age. We depend on
abundant, inexpensive oil for delivery of food, water, shelter, and
health care. The days of abundant, inexpensive oil are behind us. The
American Empire will soon run its course.

I am hopeful we can save a few tens of millions of Americans. But
we will need to make massive changes in our entire way of life,
starting immediately. We must abandon the project of globalization and
its attendant indulgences, for example, and focus on saving lives.

Yes, oil production will indeed peak at some point, and may even be peaking now (though I doubt it).  But the rest of this is just ignorant. 

  • Dale

    Did you read "State of Fear" by Crichton? It came out a couple of years ago. Crichton started out, like most in the Hollywood group, to write a book about catastrophic man-made global warming. As he did his research for the book, he realized how much bad science there was to the various premises Gore, Hansen, et al were putting forth. Crichton took a different tack and wrote a book about the hoax of it all and the concerted effort by environmentalists to get their way. Furthermore, the title came from a very small chapter in the book, where some fringe professor type was talking to the young hero about the use of words like "crisis", "catastrophe" and other doom and gloom phrases. In the book (and I think he does tie it back into actual, real life studies), this prof says that these types of words doubled or tripled (or more) in use starting in 1989 after the fall of the Berlin Wall and essentially the beginning of the end of any real US threat. The hypothesis is that the media, the legislature, and lawyers need a bad guy to sell ads, gain market share, usurp power and create class action law suits. It smacks vaguely of conspiracy theorism but it was an interesting twist in the book. Thus the name "State of Fear".

  • Dale

    Did you read "State of Fear" by Crichton? It came out a couple of years ago. Crichton started out, like most in the Hollywood group, to write a book about catastrophic man-made global warming. As he did his research for the book, he realized how much bad science there was to the various premises Gore, Hansen, et al were putting forth. Crichton took a different tack and wrote a book about the hoax of it all and the concerted effort by environmentalists to get their way. Furthermore, the title came from a very small chapter in the book, where some fringe professor type was talking to the young hero about the use of words like "crisis", "catastrophe" and other doom and gloom phrases. In the book (and I think he does tie it back into actual, real life studies), this prof says that these types of words doubled or tripled (or more) in use starting in 1989 after the fall of the Berlin Wall and essentially the beginning of the end of any real US threat. The hypothesis is that the media, the legislature, and lawyers need a bad guy to sell ads, gain market share, usurp power and create class action law suits. It smacks vaguely of conspiracy theorism but it was an interesting twist in the book. Thus the name "State of Fear".

  • http://hertzlinger.blogspot.com Joseph Hertzlinger

    Guy McPherson appears to be from an alternate universe with no uranium in it.

  • ArtD0dger

    The first question includes "How much of this do you actually believe?" I think there may be a bit of snark in there...

  • Stevo

    "The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate..."
    Paul Ehrlich, The Population Bomb, 1968.

    That which hath been is that which shall be; and that which hath been done is that which will be done: and there is nothing new under the sun.
    There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be remembrance of things that are to come...
    Ecclesiastes 1:9,11, circa 200 BC.

  • http://comuse.blogspot.com Allen

    I got a kick out of seeing a headline like "emo and goth subcultures alive in Mexico" next this this article. It seemed fitting.

    Guy McPherson is a perfect example of what scares the crap out of me in academia. Look at what he's saying and you'll see it's all based off of one claim, that our economy is entirely dependent on oil. That's total bullshit. Any junior high kid with an hour in the library can find plenty of evidence that our economy's dependence on oil has been decreasing for decades. There's no excuse for someone in academia to so willfully ignorant.

    McPherson also subcumbs to the "well, if that's the direction the graph is going now it's going to keep going like that forever" assumption. Again, someone in academia should not be making that sort of assumption. Surely a few decades of dealing with science have shown him that's almost never the case. For example, why does he cling to the assumption that oil consumption per capita will continue to grow at the same rate?

    And that whole thing about playing himself off as a martyr..... please, McPherson, see a shrink before you piss away the last few decades of your life.

  • Dave

    What I am more interested in with this example and the entire "peak oil" crowd, is their motivation. What do they seek to gain by painting the doomsday scenario? I understand religious apocolyptic visions as a means of motivating the behavior of the faithful. But what do the catastrophists gain by calling for economic contraction? What emotion are they appeasing with a an appeal to a post-industrial stone-age?

  • Bill

    You can read the unfiltered Guy at his blog "Nature Bats Last" http://blog.ltc.arizona.edu/naturebatslast/

  • bob r

    Guy McPherson appears to be from an alternate universe with no uranium in it.

    Or thorium.