Last Rites, Lost Rights

The Precambrian Past. The Imminent Future.

Take Roger Bradbury very seriously.  He’s no crank: coral reef specialist, heavy background in mathematical ecology, published repeatedly in Science. Chief and director of more scientific panels than you could roll a raccoon over.  So when he says the coral reef ecosystem is already effectively extinct — not the Florida Keys, not the Great Barrier Reef, but the whole global system of tropical reefs everywhere; not just at risk or imperiled or endangered, but fucking dead already, running brain-dead and galvanic for a few more years on nothing but sheer unsustainable inertia — you’d better listen.

Listen, but feel free to disagree.  I do.

Not with his basic prognosis, of course; I wouldn’t dare dispute that

“Overfishing, ocean acidification and pollution are pushing coral reefs into oblivion. Each of those forces alone is fully capable of causing the global collapse of coral reefs; together, they assure it. The scientific evidence for this is compelling and unequivocal, but there seems to be a collective reluctance to accept the logical conclusion — that there is no hope of saving the global coral reef ecosystem.”

Nor would I argue with Bradbury’s claim that environmentalists, governments, scientists themselves — over 2,000 of them, judging by the consensus statement from the latest International Coral Reef Symposium — are just whistling past the graveyard with their Pollyanna drivel about how “concerted action” is needed to “preserve reefs for the future”.  That ship has sailed, Bradbury says, and run aground on a bleached atoll somewhere.  This whole “there is yet hope” mantra may be “less a conspiracy than a sort of institutional inertia”  — but it’s bullshit all the same. The reefs are dead, they just don’t know it yet.  And by mid-century all we’ll be left with is

“an algal-dominated hard ocean bottom … few fish but lots of jellyfish … It will be slimy and look a lot like the ecosystems of the Precambrian era, which ended more than 500 million years ago and well before fish evolved.”

I believe him.  It’s not Bradbury’s prognosis I take issue with.  It’s his prescription.

He thinks we should stop spending money on studying the reefs themselves, and put it instead into minimizing the price we have to pay for shitting in the punchbowl.  “Money isn’t spent to study what to do after the reefs are gone — on what sort of ecosystems will replace coral reefs and what opportunities there will be to nudge these into providing people with food and other useful ecosystem products and services,” he complains. “[M]oney isn’t spent to make the economic structural adjustment that communities and industries that depend on coral reefs urgently need.” This may sound familiar to anyone who witnessed the Wall Street Journal’s brief flirtation with the real world a few years back, when they actually admitted to the reality of global climate change. Oops, looks like the tree-huggers were right after all — but it’s too late to fix things now so we should really concentrate on adapting instead. Preferably in ways that maintain a minimum 8% annual return.

I’m not for one second attributing the same craven motives to Bradbury as I do to the science-deniers of the world; his truths are hard but I believe his motives are sincere. In both cases, though, the bottom line is the same: Now that we’ve fucked up so massively, how can we sleaze out of paying the price for the damage we’ve wrought?

Well, no.  We shat in the punch bowl; I think it’s only fair that we be forced to chug from the damn thing.

That’s my gut talking, of course. That’s my Baptist Sense-o’-Justice trying to chew through the leash, and it’s one of the few aspects of my religious upbringing that I don’t especially want to be rid of. You fuck up, you pay the price. You misuse your power, you meet resistance. I think it’s a righteous algorithm, even if its adaptive benefits are questionable (it’s certainly got me into trouble on occasion).

But it’s not hard to see the problems with such a simplistic approach. For one thing, the people who have to drink most deeply from the turd-water are almost never the people who laid the biggest deuces, which kind of deflates the whole “righteous justice” angle.  In this case, Bradbury is right to point out that the people bound to suffer most from the extinction of the world’s coral reefs do not hail from the nations who pour acid into the sky or dispatch factory ships to suck up biomass like they were feeding their own event horizon; by and large they’re impoverished small-scale fisher folk whose environmental depredations are pretty penny-ante[1]. Those who actually call the shots are well-insulated from the consequences of their acts (how many people went to jail for running the global economy off a cliff in 2008?). Nothing short of a full-scale armed uprising might get them to take notice — which I suppose might justify imposing a little more suffering on us unpowerful folks if only to rouse us from our lethargy (say tuned for a thought experiment on this subject). But I digress.

More troubling, personally, is that I can see — in my own bloodlust to make the fuckers pay — a not-so-dim reflection of less-admirable religious attitudes. I’ve always found it curious that the same rabid fetus-by-the-roadside mouth-breathers who inspire Republicans everywhere in their war against abortion are also, by and large, opposed to contraception and sex-ed. There’s no logic in saying that it’s a sin to destroy unwanted unborn life, only to turn around and advocate against the very measures that would reduce the incidence of said life in the first place. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that it’s not really abortion these people are opposed to at all, but sex; to them, abortion is just the cheat that lets sinners avoid their just desserts. If some sixteen-year-old whore turns her back on God’s Laws and gets pregnant, she damn well should be forced to bring that little bastard to term, and live in poverty and disgrace, or even die in some back alley with a coat-hanger hanging from her crotch — because that’s the wages of sin and the little slut deserves to be punished.

I like to think that I’m not like that.  I like to think that the lust for justice, or payback, or what-have-you — that gut sense that You broke it, you damn well pay for it —  can legitimately be applied to those who are demonstrably destroying the biosphere, even though it’s nothing more than small-minded hatefulness when thrown at women who’d just as soon not reproduce right now, thank you all the same. Then again, I’m pretty sure the neural circuitry is the same in both cases; and it’s not as if those placard-waving morons are any less sincere in their hatred than I am in mine. So maybe I’m not so righteous after all.

Still.  We’ve killed off an entire global ecosystem.

Shouldn’t somebody have to fucking pay?



[1] Which is not to say that communities in developing countries aren’t just as capable of wreaking environmental apocalypse on a local scale — dynamiting chunks out of reefs to feed the aquarium market, for example. We’re a greedy, shortsighted species like any other; if pretech cultures tread lightly on the earth, it’s only because they lack the tools to wreak more extensive damage.

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Sunday July 15 2012at 09:07 am , filed under biology, In praise of biocide, marine, scilitics . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

77 Responses to “Last Rites, Lost Rights”

  1. The right people never get hurt. Forget who said that but it’s apt (especially if you capitalize the R in right).

  2. I seem to recall that corals have a fairly mobile pelagic larval phase.
    Not my specialty in anyway, but aside from the acidification issue, doesn’t it seem likely that the few coral larva left out there will select the most suitable location they can find?

    I’m sure it’s true that the current reefs are pretty much fucked. But each of them began with a handful of pelagic larva settling in one spot, and reproducing. Why shouldn’t new seed-reefs begin elsewhere (again, knowing that pH changes make it harder for them to build reefs, but I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of a relatively rapid adaptation by some corals)?

    Obviously these systems will not be like the old ones, and will take a long time to develop. But I think there is some hope for corals to continue doing there thing. Just not in the same places, and with the same partners.

  3. I have to admit I have the same feelings about the situation as you. In the end,(and by that time we’ll ALL be pretty fucked) everyone will suffer from this damage. Species will die out, and it’s a very real possibility that we will do the same unless we learn how to adapt.

    Adapting will be a challenge once most of the species we depend on for food start dying off.

    Not to mention that the heat wave currently affecting the U.S.’s crops, which is going to elevate prices.

    I’m in my late twenties now, and I hate to think what I’m in for. There’s so much I love in wild places of this planet, so really I hate this kind of news.

    The only possibly solace I can think to take is that maybe after we’ve effectively doomed our own species, enough time will pass so that surviving form of life can come back anew.

  4. Doesn’t make it any easier to bear (lynnderiso) but I can recommend http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2011/09/discovering-limits-to-growth/
    The death of coral reefs is just one example of the catastrophic correction in the pollution curve. Dust storms in Shanghai is another.

  5. And to think we thought the problem was Crown of Thorns starfish…

  6. I’m no expert on coral reefs, but you *nailed* the conservative agenda re: reproductive rights. I’d go further and say that they hate not just sex but women, and the idea that a woman can enjoy sex with multiple partners without enslaving herself to one of them or one of their children, much less without groveling for redemption, just drives them up the wall. But you’re right about the whole “you broke it; you buy it” approach. I suspect that philosophy is the same reason maternity leaves aren’t equal (or even guaranteed) across first-world countries.

  7. Madeline Ashby:
    I’m no expert on coral reefs, but you *nailed* the conservative agenda re: reproductive rights. I’d go further and say that they hate not just sex but women, and the idea that a woman can enjoy sex with multiple partners without enslaving herself to one of them or one of their children, much less without groveling for redemption, just drives them up the wall. But you’re right about the whole “you broke it; you buy it” approach. I suspect that philosophy is the same reason maternity leaves aren’t equal (or even guaranteed) across first-world countries.

    Well said. It’s also fear that women are really in charge, or could be in charge – that if they let them off the leash, they’d competent leaders. If you hold the power, nothing it more deeply terrifying than the creeping suspicion that your underlings could do your job and do it better.

  8. Or worse (in many people’s eyes at least), that the minority they’ve been oppressing all those years is going to want some payback now that they’re in charge; not just loss of power, but a total reversal of the previous position.

    That same “make ‘em pay” instinct, only seen from the receiving end. As much as we love to see others suffer the consequences of their misdeeds, not everyone’s as copacetic about facing up to their own.

  9. well, let’s just see what the fundies and climate deniers say about this ?

  10. I often wonder is there anything that could be changed about man to make us better at this whole localization business, that wouldn’t lead to our death pre civilization.

    Greed, wilful ignorance, aggression, tribalism et all are all pretty good survival tricks before there’s a proper global civilization going on, after all, and in many circumstances, even if there is civilization.

  11. [...] have taken him up on this, but seem more interested in apportioning blame than anything else. Still.  We’ve killed [...]

  12. Well, I kind of see where you are coming from, but…

    I’m wired differently (but I think you already kinda know that)

    My gut tells me that we should bioengineer ourselves new corals.

    With blackjack.

    And hookers.

  13. 01: Well, I kind of see where you are coming from, but…I’m wired differently (but I think you already kinda know that)My gut tells me that we should bioengineer ourselves new corals.With blackjack.And hookers.

    In a pinch, we can always forget the blackjack.

  14. “I believe in justice. I believe in vengeance. I believe in getting the bastards, getting the bastards, getting the bastards … now.”

    Fifty cents to a bank bailout says it’ll never happen, though. We won’t even get so much as an honest mea culpa. And at least some of those who are currently fighting so hard against acknowledging any need for any kind of responsibility in our dealings with the environment will be out there explaining how it’s all God’s judgment on homosexuals and promiscuous women when the big eco-crash comes.

    I wonder if this is what the Great Filter (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Filter) looks like.

  15. @AngusM, as long as we’re quoting NMA-lyrics, the most appropriate lines would probably be:
    “Scarred and smiling, dying slow, I scream to no one left at all
    I told you so, I told you so, told you so”
    :-/

  16. Bastien: In a pinch, we can always forget the blackjack.

    Oh come on, if we’re going to try to forge a new kind of coral ecosystem in place of the one we broke, we can as well go the extra mile and make it perfect

    Though, personally, I could maybe see myself settling for hookers-only.

  17. Not to burst anyone’s bubble here, but I don’t think a barrier reef made out of prostitutes and playing cards is feasible. You need solid objects, like sunken ships, things that bio-degrade more slowly. Just saying.

  18. It is raw, gut-level, base human nature to despise what you can’t have. Maybe that is why the right wing fundies hate women and sex. They even oppose the use of condoms for disease prevention because, after all, abstinence is the best form of disease prevention.

    Maybe we can start new reefs out of all of the televangelists.

  19. Maybe we can start new reefs out of all of the televangelists.

    So what you’re saying is that you’re in favor of dumping toxic waste at sea?

  20. Hljóðlegur:
    Not to burst anyone’s bubble here, but I don’t think a barrier reef made out of prostitutes and playing cards is feasible.You need solid objects, like sunken ships, things that bio-degrade more slowly.Just saying.

    Well, science better figure something out. Or out go the combustible lemons ;-)

    Anony Mouse:
    It is raw, gut-level, base human nature to despise what you can’t have. Maybe that is why the right wing fundies hate women and sex. They even oppose the use of condoms for disease prevention because, after all, abstinence is the best form of disease prevention.

    Maybe we can start new reefs out of all of the televangelists.

    Ever seen a muraena eel?
    Now imagine the kind of shit that will evolve in a reef made from decaying televangelists.

  21. I’m going to agree with you and say that your instincts are wrong.

    The Great Recession is wreaking financial havoc on the poor, but the well off have recovered. The effects of the Great Eco-bamboozle will be similar. Responsibility for this is too diffuse to pin down precisely, so the existing power structure will assign the blame, and they are not going to assign it to themselves.

    If we can strain and disinfect that punchbowl, we should push for it before too many people die. Yes, we will have to fight the peeps most responsible for the whole problem to fix it. This, or violent revolution, has always been the way of the world, no?

  22. Now imagine the kind of shit that will evolve in a reef made from decaying televangelists.

    I am seeing angler fish with glowing cruciform lures that when you get close enough to see them clearly, detach, float over and parasitize your wallet. Also, eels that look eerily like vagina dentata. And vast fields of a coral formation that looks exactly like boobs.

  23. 01 said “Ever seen a muraena eel?”

    No, but I have seen hagfish and I think that they are better represent televangelists. Slimy scavengers.

  24. This not existing, is paying: http://goo.gl/c0J79

  25. 01: Oh come on, if we’re going to try to forge a new kind of coral ecosystem in place of the one we broke, we can as well go the extra mile and make it perfect

    Though, personally, I could maybe see myself settling for hookers-only.

    Well obviously, in a perfect world we’d have brand new reefs with all the very best blackjack tables and delightful whores as far as the eye can see. But if something’s absolutely got to go, we can add the gambling in at a latter date once everything else is online.

    Re-engineering the reefs and creating a race of hypersexy water breathing super prostitutes obviously takes priority.

  26. Hljóðlegur:
    Not to burst anyone’s bubble here, but I don’t think a barrier reef made out of prostitutes and playing cards is feasible.You need solid objects, like sunken ships, things that bio-degrade more slowly.Just saying.

    Yeah, I get that. Those are what the brothels and gambling dens will be built from, so we can get a cool coral reef/sunken pirate ship theme going. It’ll be brilliant!

  27. You certainly nailed the “pro-life” mindset. It’s been bleedingly obvious for a long time that it’s not really about the babies, it’s about the sex. Virtually without exception those who are most passionate about “protecting the life of the unborn” are also utterly opposed anything that might either prevent pregnancies or make it easier for young single mothers to raise their children, feed them and so forth. Single-mother’s pensions? Public healthcare? Are you some sort of socialist maniac? It’s all about punishment for sin, not protecting life.

  28. I, personally, don’t really blame the fat cats, the rich, or the elites. I blame the damn voters who can’t be bothered to pay attention to the policy in politics. Who can’t be bothered to read past the first paragraph, if they even read the news at all.
    Who want their politics to be ‘exciting’ but constantly forget that fewer taxes, does not in fact, lead to more services.

    We live in the world that we, collectively, make. It’s just unfortunate that I’m not so happy with the decisions of most of the collective.

  29. Bastien: Well obviously, in a perfect world we’d have brand new reefs with all the very best blackjack tables and delightful whores as far as the eye can see. But if something’s absolutely got to go, we can add the gambling in at a latter date once everything else is online.

    Re-engineering the reefs and creating a race of hypersexy water breathing super prostitutes obviously takes priority.

    None of that would help unless the root of the problem went away (hahahaha … no) or the new, artificial ecosystem was much more robust than the original. As things stand, we’d be back to hagfish and cardsharks inside a decade. :(

  30. JsD: the new, artificial ecosystem was much more robust than the original

    The quoted bit is crucial if the new reefs are going to stand a chance in this more toxic and pollution filled environment. Hmm, could coral be engineered to feed on the ambient pollutants, kind of like those bacteria that get used to eat up oil spills?

    The danger of course is making the neocoral TOO tough. Rifters’ Kudzu4 anyone?

  31. Bastien:The danger of course is making the neocoral TOO tough. Rifters’ Kudzu4 anyone?

    Just needs someone to have the bright idea of it biomagnifying any vaguely useful trace element out of the water, and you’ve got Tiberium.

    … Sexy, sexy Tiberium.

  32. Comparable climate shifts have happened in the past, as well as comparable changes in sea-level. As was mentioned before, coral have a non-sessile life phase and one can only assume that if there’s some place they can settle and enter the sessile phase, they’ll do that. I don’t see any claims that the species themselves are about to go extinct, just that the existing coral reefs are about to die, along with many of their inhabitants. I suppose there’s a lot of potential there for folks who want to do some studies and papers on “where do the reef inhabitants go when the reefs have finished slowly fading from existence”. Then again, they can do comparable studies on the adaptations of the large predatory fish that the commercial fishing industry has driven to the brink of extinction.

    Clearly, the oceans are a mess already, and are going to get worse. We perhaps ought to be less worried about generic Climate Change and moreso worried about the specifics of Oceanic Change. Yet we did hear that clarion call, what, 15 years ago? And what was done about that? The present conference seems to say “not much and certainly not enough”.

    Can anyone say straight off, with any assurance, whether the “tipping point” has been reached? Is this it? Or is this just the first of the non-ignorable knock-on effects?

  33. Thomas Hardman: Can anyone say straight off, with any assurance, whether the “tipping point” has been reached?

    Well, Bradbury’s saying it, for one. That was kind of the point of the article.

    Keep in mind that this isn’t just a temperature-redistribution thing. It’s not just a question of “these corals die but other ones grow further towards the poles”. The big thing with climate change and corals is not temperature per sé but ocean acidification resulting from increased C02 absorption; it fucks up the metabolic processes that allow coral to build their limestone skeleta. So you’ve got a lot of naked polyps flailing around with no way to build a home.

  34. So, in other words, the extinction of the human species is not the most likely scenario anymore, but guaranteed?

    http://io9.com/5916605/were-breaking-our-planet-once-and-for-all-warn-scientists

  35. @Peter Watts: I “get that”. I probably should have thought more (and better) before I started typing.

    That being said… looking around the web for something I vaguely recall from about 15 years ago, I found an abstract of Co-Evolution of Atmospheres, Life, and Climate (Grenfell, J Lee et al. March, 2010. DOI: 10.1089/ast.2009.0375).

    The abstract points out that at one point in early evolution — and pre-Precambrian sounds about right — life forms of a mostly prokaryotic variety significantly modified the atmosphere, adding a great deal of oxygen, etc. Now, this isn’t the paper I was trying to find, which probably dates from before the WWW. I do remember the earlier paper giving some detail about processes where microorganisms seemed to have been hard at work binding up the carbon dioxide from solution into carbonates, with later evolution of all sorts of things from diatoms to shellfish continuing to bind the soluble carbon into insoluble forms. In far distant (geologically speaking) futures, whatever replaces whatever replaces us may ponder and remark, “ah yes, the humans. You know, if they hadn’t acidified the oceans, we might not have such a surplus of fine marble and limestones for our construction needs”. ;)

    Of course, people like me who tend to express vaguely Gaianist notions that “evolution will find a way” as a means of holding out hope for a future that includes some rather abashed and far-more-respectful humanity, we tend to forget the difference in time scales between epochs and decades. Then again, microbes have been known to evolve rather quickly.

    I don’t think I want to propose any SF solutions on the scale of Kim Stanley Robinson’s proposed method of dealing with catastrophic climate changes by mining literal mountains of salt and dumping them into the North Atlantic downwelling to re-stabilize the global thermohaline system. And it might be premature to suggest that we ought to put our commercial biologists to work developing radical modifications of carbonate-fixing oceanic microbes or microscale eukaryotes. After all, it’s the freakin’ coral that’s supposed to be fixing the carbonates in the form of reefs, but we are evidently asking them to do a far larger and faster job than they’ve adapted to do. Maybe someone can breed up some extremely aggressive corals? Probably not the best idea… but I expect that evolution will continue on its own, so long as life remains. Whether it’s going to be too little too late, or take novel directions that we humans might not much like, time will tell.

    More fun news: an Iceberg twice the size of Manhattan has broken off of the Petermann glacier in Greenland. Now, that might do something about the thermohaline circulation, if it drifts into the right place.

    Additionally, about some problems being self-limiting, at least to some degree, the drought in the US grain belt is increasing in depth and expanding in scope. To quote one researcher:

    “We’re moving from a crisis to a horror story,” said Purdue University agronomist Tony Vyn. “I see an increasing number of fields that will produce zero grain.”

    I could cheerfully digress to the sidebar issue of a disconnect between the folks thinking they’ll make a pile of money in the Futures Markets speculating on catastrophe, in the same way that Goldman Sachs actually made a huge pile of loot by shorting the market during the 2008 economic collapse (now that is called hedging!) and I could even try to bring it back on-point to reprise the present original posting’s remarks to the effect of “do the regulators/One-Percenters ever learn or even give a damn”. But I’ll just point out that for every certain rise in price of staple grains, a million people are pushed over the brink from food insecurity into actual hunger or starvation. That’s how our “Arab Spring” got started, eh? Diversion of significant corn reserves into production of ethanol started during the fuel price crisis of 2006-2008 and that raised the price of corn enough to push millions of marginalized persons into desperate political rebellions. As it is right now, about 1/3rd of US corn crops are fed into ethanol production. My point here being, fuel prices can go up, corn and other grain prices can go up, likely both will, and regardless of price and market position, if there’s not enough to eat, fairly large populations can get so malnourished as to have significantly reduced immune response capacity. Considering that some of the populations that will be most immediately and deeply affected by US crop failures are those which inhabit nations which are the source of (or can deeply affect) oil production and distribution, things could get out of hand rather more quickly and in more far-reaching ways than we might expect.

    We can’t turn to the sea for our additional nutritional needs, as we seem to have deeply overfished it as well as having acidified it. Well, both of those ought to bounce back at least to some degree, once some novel pathogens get into the human populations already weakened by persistent hunger. Remember, a ten-year famine preceded the Black Death, and it’s arguable that a lot more people would have survived — along with the prevalent social-cultural-governance systems — had the plague emerged into a well-fed society.

    And now add into the mix that is the emerging and ongoing Holocene Mass Extinction, massive disruption in the incredibly productive reef ecologies.

    Should we have our “end of the world” parties now, while we still have some groceries, or wait until we’ve eaten the last of the house pets?

  36. Speaking of Kudzu4, etc. can someone remind me which part of the one-day-soon-former US one wants to wind up in once it splits? I seem to recall four or five distinct parts being mentioned…would probably prefer to avoid the Biblia or New Gilead or whatever it’s to be called.

  37. @Whoever: Stick close to the Great Lakes shoreline and New England, or Puget Sound on the Left Coast, and you should be able to avoid most of the Fundies… and generally speaking, anything to the east of the Susquehanna River and north of the Mason-Dixon Line ought to be pretty safe, even if you have to learn New World French.

    Just keep in mind that for certain values of “secular humanist liberal”, they have their own tyrannies such as Political Correctness. For example, point out that Global Warming and Resource Depletion are caused mostly by the population doubling every 12 years, and that since 1990 absolutely all US population growth is driven by immigration, and they won’t listen to your facts or argument, you’ll be publicly burned at the stake ahem cough cough “re-educated” for being a Racist.

    Of course, I suppose that’s better than being in the Fundie zone since they’ll be burning all immigrants (legal or otherwise), unless they’re Pentacostal Republicans, for being allies with those Godless Liberals “north of DC”.

    Tongue not in cheek much, dontcha know. Do please see the Washington Post review of Colin Woodard’s “American Nations”.

    Note that most of the places Woodard equates with generally easy-going liberal and free-thinking culture are those places in the States most deeply settled by Germans, very frequently those who were kicked out of the Fatherland for being atheists, agnostics, anabaptists, non-Catholics, non-Lutherans, non-Nazis etc etc. (My mom’s folks evidently left due to that whole mess in the Palatine circa 1730s. Dad’s folks came a bit later for comparable reasons.) Pennsylvania ought to suit you. Land’s real cheap up around Reading, though there’s no industry to speak-of.

    And drifting back more to topic, since the Great Lakes have no coral reef ecosystems, they won’t turn to hard-bottomed algal slime pits any more than they have already done, at least not from coral-reef extinctions.

    What will happen to them as a result of being fossil water being mined far faster than can be replenished by rain, that’s another story, as is the issue of being the Great Nitrogen Runoff Repository for much of North America.

  38. Yeah, University of Reading is where they’ve been playing with rat brains in robots. I’ll stick to the Great Lakes and skip Pennsyltucky, thanks, Tom.

    As for being re-educated to believe there’s gotta be a better way than forced population reduction, well I speak that fluently already though sometimes the words admittedly stick in my throat. Still better than sacrificing virgins to volcanoes or whatever Texas will be doing.


  39. Well, no. We shat in the punch bowl; I think it’s only fair that we be forced to chug from the damn thing.

    Punishment only makes sense insofar as it will affect future behavior. Anything beyond that may feel good, but is really just an exercise in non-sexual sadism.


    I like to think that I’m not like that. I like to think that the lust for justice, or payback, or what-have-you — that gut sense that You broke it, you damn well pay for it — can legitimately be applied to those who are demonstrably destroying the biosphere..

    How would you go about punishing the whole industrialized world?

    ‘Destroying’ the biosphere is what humans do. If you give hunter-gatherers guns, they’ll kill off everything edible. Ancients cut down almost the forests around the Med. Papuans managed to kill off all large mammals on their island, just with bows and arrows.

    It’s just a matter of scale.

    If something can be done the right way or the convenient way, guess what the majority, if given freedom, will choose…

  40. I don’t know…I kind of agree with the commenter over here:

    http://itllallendintears.wordpress.com/2012/07/16/hubris/#comment-1614

  41. I think the right people are going to start to pay soon. The wrong people too, to be be sure. But no more so than they already do, likely(hopefully?) less.

    Technology isn’t just a double edged sword, it’s fast becoming something that can cut along any axis and material you can think up. And it’s probably also too late to stop or even significantly slow that advance without kicking off a revolt that will end with the same(or more) amount of dead elites and a whole lot more besides. We’re in the middle of a global recession, and yet technology hasn’t deviated from its exponential march.

    Look at anonymous, wikileaks. Look at what hobbyists can do with aerial drones. Look at whats coming in 3d printers, cheap sensors, wireless networks, biomimicry. Push that forward even 5 years. You’ll have people who have wet their teeth fighting to expose corruption, practiced at evading detection by the traditional power structure and organizing without giving themselves away. They’re learning that the hard way, but they’re learning it. They can raise funds anonymously with digital currency.

    Technology is going to be the gunpowder that renders the castles of our current power-structure obsolete.

    Say these people are willing to punish. The next big oil spill happens. Or maybe it’s another massive financial crime that goes completely unpunished by the governments. Doesn’t matter, but there will be people to point the finger at. Could those people hide? How long could they conceal the location of all their safe-house estates? How could they possibly defend? Gated communities and hired security can keep out an angry mob or some people with guns, but you can’t defend if the response can always be developed faster than the defense. ~$1000 today can buy you the parts to build an untraceable autonomous drone that can carry an explosive payload. What ten times that amount can buy you in five years will be bounded only by your creativity.

    Fuck, think of the possibility of cybernetic insects alone as assassination or espionage tools. I think crowd-funded assassination is going to happen in the future. If you had $10 of completely untraceable digital currency, would you not send it to a guy promising to kill Rupert Murdock? well, you might not, but I’d bet a few thousand other people would. Especially the next time, after that guy actually pulls it off.

    Now, the slide towards ubiquitous surveillance that governments around the world, “free” or otherwise, seem to be experiencing makes sense.

  42. Which is precisely why it should be government punishing the corporate criminals instead of vigilantes and agents provocateur pretending to. The stuff you describe is what the likes of Blackwater whisper to legislators to get contracts and soak up tax dollars that should be spent finding solutions to real problems, not defending against the latest episoode of 24.

    Joe Blow can’t even figure out why the coral reefs disappearing should cause him alarm. He is not going to run out and buy a drone and load it with explosives as long as there is some semblance of justice for the powerful criminals and checks and balances on that kind of power. Besides, all they have to do is restrict and monitor drone purchases, not sniff everyone’s underwear and read all their mail. That is for entirely different reasons. It is because Rupert Murdoch gets a free pass (though not quite so much in the UK) that is the problem. That and a bad economy (because of where the focus is and is not, because the financial industry is essentially holding out for someone to kill social security and other social net services) are the issues. The boogeyman is a sales pitch, not someone that needs any more money and attention thrown at him.

  43. I completely agree that the government should be punishing these people, not private citizens. I’d vastly prefer a government who address real problems that actually effect the global populace and punishes those who perpetrate those problems to vigilante activism. Only, our governments don’t seem to be doing that. So, it seems logical to assume that a very small minority of people will choose to take matters into their own hands. I’m not talking about Joe Blow, I’m talking about a very small number of angry, effective, and morally unorthodox people.

    If you think the solution to this issue is as simple as restricting and monitoring drone purchases, you are completely missing the scope of the issue. Right now you can assemble a drone from completely innocuous parts. it’s 4 electric motors, a battery, micro-controller, accelerometers, gyroscopes, code and a frame and rotors that you could 3d print or cut out of plastic. All stuff that you could never restrict access to or monitor because it has a billion legitimate uses that aren’t drones. And a flying drone is a single example of this type of thing.

    The point is, very soon if you can think it up you will be able to make it.

    And, if Blackwater is saying this, well then a stopped clock gets it right twice a day. I, however, have no agenda other than describing the world how I see it. Believe it or not, I’m something of a techno-utopian optimist. I just think we’re heading for some pretty weird times ahead.

  44. To be clear, I’m FAR more afraid of the government backlash from(or in preparation for) something like this than I am from the vigilantism.

  45. @Whoever, who wrote:

    Yeah, University of Reading is where they’ve been playing with rat brains in robots. I’ll stick to the Great Lakes and skip Pennsyltucky, thanks, Tom.

    As for being re-educated to believe there’s gotta be a better way than forced population reduction, well I speak that fluently already though sometimes the words admittedly stick in my throat. Still better than sacrificing virgins to volcanoes or whatever Texas will be doing.

    Well, U Reading (phonetically! ;) ) is actually following down a track that seems to have been really popular in SF during the 1950s and even the 1960s (James Blish posited, in his early ST:TOS novelizations, that the computer of the Starship Enterprise was in fact a cat-brain-based system). Frankly, I don’t see it, other than as a means of taking the neural networks that “evolve” in hardware/firmware robotics labs, and comparing them with the hardware that actually evolved in life.

    As for Pennsyltucky… heh. UPENN is at the cutting edge of robotics, with their Quadcopter Swarms. But on the other side of the equation, you might want to run right out and rent “Martin” (George A Romero, 1976), without question the best vampire movie ever made (though some might suggest that “the Hamiltons” comes close) and long overdue for a re-make. In any case, I should point out that at one corner of Pennsylvania are the Amish, and at the other corner is Lake Erie. There’s a lot in between… pockets of intense civilization and pockets of intense… not so much civilization.

    @Y., who wrote in-part:

    If something can be done the right way or the convenient way, guess what the majority, if given freedom, will choose…

    And this is why good parenting is important. 8-D I suspect that at one time, religion had a real purpose, to convince the kiddies that the convenient way isn’t likely to be the right way. But times have changed, but the fables central to the instruction did not change. Wisdom is so easily discarded when it seems outmoded.

    @Me Alone: it seems to me that while you are positing an abreaction which is, however anti-social, otherwise sane in a revolutionary justice context, what about the people who will inevitably do batshit crazy stuff for batshit crazy reasons? See also Bruce Sterling’s novels, in one of which, the protagonist is targeted for murder by a search-engine seeking to line up popularly-reviled types as victims, with notably wacky posters to online forums as perpetrators. It analyzes for a combination of good spelling, near-psychotic ideation, and a willingness to accept donations from anonymous sources towards the ends it promotes. The problem here might be that the rest of the Elder Deities might all be peacefully ascended, but I have no doubt that Loki still walks among us, so to speak.

    Besides: what if the target, for example Rupert Murdoch, is selected less for any actual crimes or influence on crimes, and more because he’s the CEO of a media empire that is a rival to the media empire selecting Rupert Murdoch? There’s no question that individuals have in the past been picked nearly at random for media demonization. No reputable “hit man” would take that sort of assignment. But what about internet radicals? The problem is that there are too many potential actors and too many targets… but far more than both, there are organizations that will benefit if they can get any of the above to target any of the others. And as you say, the price of mass destruction is always getting lower.

    As Whoever points out, The boogeyman is a sales pitch, not someone that needs any more money and attention thrown at him. Whether to support or destroy him.

  46. I’m in a bit of a rush, so I’ll just leave this here
    http://arcticready.com/social/gallery?sort_by=value&sort_order=DESC

    More later

  47. Me alone:
    To be clear, I’m FAR more afraid of the government backlash from(or in preparation for) something like this than I am from the vigilantism.

    That’s pretty much my point. Some people are counting on it. Anonymous, for example, is playing right into the hands of people like Michaels Hayden and Chertoff who want a “digitial Blackwater,” essentially Internet police which could prevent this very discussion. Verizon is currently fighting to be able to “edit” what their customers see on the web. The recent NDAA not only allows the military to lock up indefinitely anyone they suspect of terrorism, but has also legalized running psychological operations on the public (barn door after horse).

    I see it as the looting that goes on when there is a blackout. These looming environmental and other potential disasters have attracted every sociopathic opportunist including people like dear old Erik Prince, son of the man who built the Religious Right movement. Not a pleasant picture imagining Blackwater replacing the police. Recall how that worked out in Bagdad. Hence my question on where to live.

  48. Anonymous:

    As Whoever points out, The boogeyman is a sales pitch, not someone that needs any more money and attention thrown at him. Whether to support or destroy him.

    Only two options? How TwenCen. ;)

  49. @Whoever, who wrote, in-part:

    [...] The recent NDAA not only allows the military to lock up indefinitely anyone they suspect of terrorism, but has also legalized running psychological operations on the public (barn door after horse).

    I see it as the looting that goes on when there is a blackout. These looming environmental and other potential disasters have attracted every sociopathic opportunist including people like dear old Erik Prince, son of the man who built the Religious Right movement. Not a pleasant picture imagining Blackwater replacing the police. Recall how that worked out in Bagdad. Hence my question on where to live.

    Either you just read the last half of my first novel and are psyopping me, or we think along very similar lines. But enough about me. Let’s borrow from the ouvre of our esteemed host.

    Let’s just say that there is an entire extended clan or tribe of rather inbred people really very much like Jukka Sarasti, with the proviso while there is something that can sometimes keep them more or less in line, it’s not the Crucifix Glitch. They aren’t actually vampires but for the average person, they might as well be. It’s less about “supernatural” or even exceptional natural ability as it is about culture and training as well as selective breeding for a variety of traits that are very useful in the military and intelligence services. Extreme capability for gymnastics, calisthenics, pattern recognition, language skills at the polymath level, extremely educable and generally with photographic and phonographic (or even eidetic) memories. Not actually sociopaths (usually) but this is true only as regards others of their tribe or kind. Everyone else is not merely Fair Game, but widely agreed upon to be the primary source of entertainment and amusement. This is, of course, entirely my imagination.

    If, however, there were such people, while you would find at least a few of them in all major cities and most towns of the county-seat class, where you would find them most concentrated would be in the suburbs of Washington DC. If the country goes to hell in a handcart and breaks up as it does, this is the last place you would want to be.

    Because without their restraints, these incredibly and utterly fictional people would be about as much fun to be around as about 80,000 Wattsian Genetically Resurrected Vampires who’ve managed to each steal a lifetime supply of Anti-Euclidean drugs and have elected to Go Traditional. Why might be why I strongly suspect that there are longstanding contingency plans such that — in the same way we sent special forces in after Khadafi’s chemo/bio weapons stockpiles even as we stood back from other direct involvement in their revolution — in the event of a total collapse of the Union, the US military will be the first in the world to launch a 50 megatonne MIRV thermonuclear strike on their own capital.

    That should at least clear Blackwater out of the internets for a week or three.

    Of course, that’s the Reichstag Fire on a diamond-encrusted silver platter if there ever was one, and I shudder to imagine how bad it would get everwhere, for the rest of time most likely.

  50. @ Mr. Non-Entity: We think along the same lines, but mine is an unfinished graphic novel and has a sappy ending.

    In any case, I knew Virginia would not be the place to be but hadn’t quite thought of it the way you describe. Note Lockheed-Martin, et al holding the economy, Congress, the budget and the election hostage:

    http://truth-out.org/news/item/10409-defense-sequestration-means-well-lose-a-million-jobs-and-were-all-going-to-die

    So much for alternative solutions to ecological disaster requiring government funding.

    (By the way, speaking of Rupert Murdoch, I recently discovered that FOX’s congresswoman Bachman is on the House Intel Committee. She just accused the US government of being infiltrated–and one assumes taken over–by the Muslim Brotherhood. Can anyone imagine that happening in the 90s and such a person not being drummed out of office or made to shut their crazy pie hole?)

  51. @Whoever: well, there’s a significant sub-population locally which seems to believe that they rightly wage an endless battle against (and I quote) “blood suckers”. I think they mean Welfare Frauds and Tax Dodgers, but you never know if they mean the other thing. This is prevalent among Democrats, since locally there are almost no Republicans. Jebus only knows what the Republicans think, other than how very hopeless and alone they are, and that the Democrats are all batshit crazy. Seriously, fer real, if the Collapse of the US or the Second Civil War ever cuts off the restocking of local pharmacies supplies of neuroleptics and SSRIs, it’s not going to be pretty. I’d probably actually prefer the bible-thumpers. They at least have a printed reference manual.

    As for DoD and the “we’re all dooooooommmmed” plaint that never seems to end, how about if we spent that much money on fixing the ecology instead of blowing stuff up real good, or preparing to blow stuff up real good and praying we never need to? The same amount of unsupportable new national debt gets added to the tally, but the so-called Beltway Bandits need to get a new bag of tricks, so to speak. But here we cannot afford to add any new debt, and nobody could stop bickering long enough to come up with a plan that avoids the default-option, so here we go again with the US being the first nation ever to intentionally default on its sovereign debt.

  52. I keep hearing people say not to discuss this stuff or they’ll throw you in the loony bin, but what they don’t realize is that the days of the free mental institutions in the US are pretty much over. I expect, as you say, it’s justified by the idea that pharma and DoH employees can handle it, but I think some portion of the upheaval we are seeing is because of this loss of social service. Simply put, they are already on the streets.

    The biblethumpers might work for you. Being gay, I expect to be locked in a cage in their effort to appease their imaginary God who for some reason didn’t allow poisoning the planet for love of mammon to go unchecked on a permanent basis.

    I always think of that woman who became an animal psychologist after she figured out why a horse occasionally acted up. Turned out it was green hats. The horse had been whipped in the same spot and there had been a green hat hanging on a post. The horse, unable to contemplate why it was being punished, assumed it was the green hat. So, whenever it saw someone wearing a green hat, it assumed torture was not far behind. Animal superstition.

    Take the Haitian earthquake as example. Televangelist says it was because the Haitians had made a pact with the devil in the 18th or 19th century. Same with Katrina and New Orleans tolerating gays and not the fact that the construction of the levies was outsourced and the effects of climate change due to green house effects significantly increase hurricane power. These people are utterly incapable of self-reflection and corrective action. Would seem to be a recipe for the rise of neoliberalism, albeit probably too late for an intrusive and overly helpful government to do any good.

  53. @Whoever: About the free looney bins being a thing of the past? Here in the States, with the advent of thorazine and related neuroleptics, and a Supreme Court decision that the State was warranted to confine the mentally ill only on accusation or conviction of criminal acts, or an “indisputable” presumption of impending harm, the day of insane-asylum incarceration was effectively over. Yet increasingly, even in a very wealthy and liberal State and County, increasingly the only access to any form of mental healthcare for many individuals is in jail or prison. Clearly it’s inappropriate to throw a schizophrenic at the peak of a psychotic break in with the rapists and murderers, so they tend to be sequestered until they can be brought closer to reality, and then they throw them in with the burglars and dopers. Yet for schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, the proper treatment generally starts with medication… yet for the rest of the prisoners, it’s cognitive therapy, which is good support for the chemical-imbalance folks but not the primary therapy of choice.

    As for your worries about the bible thumpers tossing you in slam for being gay, my advice is to avoid the Pentacostal and Baptist dominated regions, and head for someplace settled more with the Episcopalian or Presbyterian types. As to the ecological concerns, the “Creation Conservation” movement holds out some hope. More or less, there are some passages back in the deeper and elder Scripture which declare pretty forcefully that people are not the owners of, but rather the tenants here of the land, and are to provide for the redemption of the land. A lot of Xians tend to pass over those parts of Scripture that deal with this sort of thing, provisions for the gleaners, the rule of Jubilee and forgiveness of debts and sins, but a lot don’t pass over that.

    There are a lot of pretty serious people who are also reasonable, and tend to stay with some given church or sect less because they are true believers, and more because they find that church society fills a social need in their lives. There are, interestingly, organizations of athiests/agnostics who have created their own fellowship organizations to provide those social and organizational/affinity needs, and while they don’t seem to be um aggressively anti-theist they may have concerns comparable to your own. Often they call themselves “ethical society”, pretty much a deep core of Secular Humanism. It’s essential, however, to avoid those such groups which have the same logical faults basic to their “creed” as you cite with the horse and the green hat, or blaming Katrina on tolerance of homosexuality.

    BTW: for a lot of folks easily led astray, the fault lies less with their own mental incompetence, and more with uncontrolled charlatans posing as “clergy” and exploiting the weak minded.

    How all of this will change when it’s clear that it’s not the will of the almighty, but rather human activity, that turns the seas into cesspools of foaming slime, well, we shall see, I guess.

  54. On the mental health in prison thing, there was also a recent article on how the private prison system is withholding medical services of all kinds in exchange for being “debriefed” by which I take it to mean, “say what we want you to say and the torture will stop.” Naturally, not a single arrest.

    I know there are people of faith who are also environmentally conscious and in fact would likely say they are the latter because of the former. But that is one of the problems I have with your “rulebook” idea, they use it to justify mutually exclusive things.

    Again, I would say that the only way to signal and get the “masses” to accept that we need to change course is a big, dramatic, yet simple example of someone actually responsible. It’s necessary, not because it actually accomplishes anything in itself but because it is the only way to alter the current mindset. And it will happen at some point anyway…may as well be now rather than after the Civil War Part Deux and WW 3.0.

    Of course even we two-legged critters like simplifying things, playing checkers rather than chess (to bring it back Wattsian), so that will perhaps have to happen first.

  55. Total change of subject here, or is it?

    It seems that there is a Glut of Lobster, specifically the Maine soft-shelled lobsters are so plentiful that they now cost less per pound than deli meat. Evidently the price is so low that it’s not worth putting gas in the tank for the fishermen to head out to sea.

    Here near the great Chesapeake Bay, once home to some of the best shellfishing in the world, but lately beset by a Dead Zone and various plagues of oysters and clams, the Blue Crab has come back so strong that people are practically giving them away, at prices (anecdotally reported) not seen since the 1970s.

    Neither of these seem to be due to improved anti-pollution regulations. As for the lobster:

    [ ... ] Our lobster purveyor in NYC, who sources his lobster from Maine and asked that we withhold his name, says that stricter enforcement of lobster fishing over the years has also contributed to the glut. “You can’t take lobsters that are too small or too big or that have eggs on them or had eggs on them,” he explains. “The rules that the industry put in three decades ago to ensure sustainability have resulted in booming population.”

    I’m not so sure about that. Maybe this is an inkling of the shape of things that could come, as the reef ecosystems come apart and the biomass and food-chain are redistributed.

    We’ve been shown the vision of an ocean reduced to a bubbling cesspool covered by giant floating algal mats, but what’s beneath that?

    Are we now headed into… the dawn of the Age of the Lobster?

    @Whoever: you suggested that we need to “get” someone really responsible… and a few posts earlier you had mentioned Rupert Murdoch. Well, I don’t know what might have been his crimes against the Environment, but he did just resign as CEO of all (or almost all) of his media companies…

    Has the Crawl gone pre-cog? ;)

  56. I mentioned Murdoch because Me Alone mentioned him previously. However, I think that case could be easily made in terms of climate change denying propaganda culpability. When it came out that he was dictating what Tony Blair could and could not do with regards to his company’s wrongdoings, I’m guessing resignation was a foregone conclusion.

    Additionally, I think we will have to expand the list of crimes beyond just those against the environment. The financial sector probably also requires some serious rethinking.

    Re: lobsters I seem to recall there was a shortage in ’08. The reason for the shortage was red tide and rather than kill them, it slows them down, keeps them from the places where they get caught. Basically, they hibernate. Shooting a hypothesis straight out of my ass, could it be that this is a window of opportunity in between red tides and what we are seeing is the result of that?

  57. PS: I’m sure we can arrange hookers and blackjack during the executions if this exchange is boring the regulars. :)

  58. “I’ve always found it curious that the same rabid fetus-by-the-roadside mouth-breathers who inspire Republicans everywhere in their war against abortion are also, by and large, opposed to contraception and sex-ed. There’s no logic in saying that it’s a sin to destroy unwanted unborn life, only to turn around and advocate against the very measures that would reduce the incidence of said life in the first place.”

    Do sex education and giving away contraception actually work?

    I think a citation is needed. As far as I can tell, neither sex education nor abstinence education affect pregnancy rates. (It is common in these debates to point out that one of them doesn’t work and assume that means the other one does.)

    In any case, many of us wingnuts regard children as a reward and that “sluts” giving birth is an unwanted side effect of fetal civil rights.

    As for the sincerity of pro-lifers … It’s quite common for defenders of traditional values to be caught in extramarital affairs or popping pills of dubious legality. For some reason, such scandals appear to be much rarer for abortions. (There were only two instances here and I’m sure they were thorough.) Maybe we uptight reactionaries really do take abortion more seriously than mere vices.

  59. @Joseph Hertzlinger, writing: Do sex education and giving away contraception actually work?

    Ah, don’t those NW European nations that have such policies, also have the lowest rates of reproduction on the planet?

    I do know that when I was a teenager in the US (call it 1973-1978), the organization Planned Parenthood was very well funded and contraceptives were inexpensive and very available. The teen birth rate dropped dramatically… especially in the populations which took advantage of “PP” free sex education courses. ;)

  60. http://www.reuters.com/article/2008/03/24/us-teen-pregnancies-idUSTON47250120080324

    60% lower pregnancy rate for comprehensive sex ed. No statistical difference between abstinence only and no sex ed.

    No significant rise in sexual activity between abstinence only and comprehensive.

    So that’s pretty conclusive.

  61. Joseph Hertzlinger:

    Do sex education and giving away contraception actually work?

    The magikal cow-pewter machinery says “yes”

    magikal cow-pewter machinery:

    Two-thirds of sex education programs examined in the report that focus on both abstinence and
    contraception had a positive effect on teen sexual behavior—for example, they delayed the initiation of sex, improved contraceptive use, or did both. Despite the concerns of many adults, none of the programs that discussed abstinence and contraception hastened the initiation of sex or increased the frequency of sex among teens.
    The report also notes that, at present, there is no strong evidence that programs that stress abstinence as the only acceptable behavior for unmarried teens delay the initiation of sex, hasten the return to abstinence, or reduce the number of sexual partners.

    Joseph Hertzlinger: In any case, many of us wingnuts regard children as a reward and that “sluts” giving birth is an unwanted side effect of fetal civil rights.

    Well, on the bright side at least some of you wingnuts openly and explicitly identify yourself, so others can steer clear ;)

    Whoever: Again, I would say that the only way to signal and get the “masses” to accept that we need to change course is a big, dramatic, yet simple example of someone actually responsible. It’s necessary, not because it actually accomplishes anything in itself but because it is the only way to alter the current mindset.

    This kind of assumes that deterrence kind of works in an absolute sense, not in a relative sense.

    I think both humans and slime molds tend to compare alternatives relative to each other, and wrecking the environment is just too profitable for a “relative deterrence scheme” to reliably work.

    It’s kind of like how certain types of “baseline” crimes are incredibly prevalent despite fairly hard deterrence measures.

    Also, it could very well be that wrecking the environment is pretty much as close to the “nature” of ours as something can get.
    After all, it’s what we were doing all the goddamn time, it’s just that we have become exceedingly efficient at doing it.

    01: Oh come on, if we’re going to try to forge a new kind of coral ecosystem in place of the one we broke, we can as well go the extra mile and make it perfect
    Though, personally, I could maybe see myself settling for hookers-only.

    Darling, I believe you are overestimating the benefits of genetically engineered sex-slave mermaids (assuming, of course, that they would be strictly aquatic, and not de-facto amphibian in their environmental preference, which I suppose is a requisite for “coral fauna”. Biologists please correct me if I am wrong)

    First and foremost, sex in diving gear doesn’t sound like much fun, at least as long as science doesn’t come up with radical rifter-style upgrades (then again, technology for such upgrades is probably prerequisite to engineering prostitution reefs anyway).
    Second, majority of BDSM gear would be highly problematic to operate underwater (pretty much all and any flagellation devices would be rendered near-useless, and electricity would be outright dangerous for all involved parties)
    But… on the other hand, you will probably have an easier time finding a partner who recognizes erotic waterboarding as an actual thing ;)

  62. Not so much deterrent as paradigm change. The mindsets are: nothing we can do, powerful get away with it, and it’s not happening. Getting deadly serious about the latter two of those three gets the bullhorn on the first heard loud and clear. Think of it as a malaise remedy.

    Of course I also think the extraordinary rendition and enhanced interrogation of criminally negligent corporate officers would be a very, very effective deterrent. Treating it like the terrorism it is gets the jarheads all tingly and gets the public to support the efforts of “the troops” to protect us all from corporate dragon-vampire hybrids.

  63. Drifting off-topic to the current thread for the moment, take a look at Rare Burst of Melting Seen in Greenland’s Ice Sheet (Slivka, Kelly. July 24, 2012. New York Times.)

    In a scant four days this month, the surface of Greenland’s ice sheet melted to an extent not witnessed in 30 years of satellite observations, NASA reported on Tuesday. [ ... ] On average, about half of the surface of the ice sheet melts during the summer. But from July 8 to July 12, the ice melt expanded from 40 percent of the ice sheet to 97 percent, according to scientists who analyzed the data from satellites deployed by NASA and India’s space research institute. [ ... ]

    Back more to topics, I think that the here-and-now is catching up to decisions made (or left unmade, or made the wrong way) 20 or more years ago.

    Unless someone wants to suggest that recent increased solar activity is having far more of an effect than expected, it might appear as if all of the Global Change Tipping Point stuff is happening kinda now…

  64. Genetically-engineered sex-slaves sound a little boring. It’d be like having an automatic soft-serve ice cream machine at home – oh, for a while, it’s like “ALRIGHT! Ice-cream whenever I want!” then eventually, meh.

  65. Joseph Hertzlinger: In any case, many of us wingnuts regard children as a reward and that “sluts” giving birth is an unwanted side effect of fetal civil rights.

    I see others have beat me to the punch on the whole evidence-for-effectiveness-of-sex-ed front, so I’ll just make a quick comment on the above quote: I hope, for the sake of ethical consistency, that members of this fetal civil rights movement are all vegetarians (or at least piscitarians), since any of the birds and mammals routinely slaughtered to supply human appetites are vastly more cognitively sophisticated that your average aborted fetus (given that fetuses don’t even have a neocortex until the fifth month).

    On the up side, it’s always a pleasure to met another fan of PDQ Bach.

  66. @Hljóðlegur: Genetically-engineered sex-slaves, fun at first and then “meh”?

    Been done, really well. A “Welcome to Paradox” (Canadian Content!) version of Rob Chilton’s excellent short story “Acute Triangle” starts at:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2YDUfjeL18o

    Really, it’s quite good although the written story’s at least a trifle better, just because of the things you can do with a close tone in narrative conclusion.

  67. 03: Darling, I believe you are overestimating the benefits of genetically engineered sex-slave mermaids

    I prefer the term “synthetic friends with preconfigured consent” :D

    And while I might be overestimating sexual benefits, I’m pretty sure I’m not overestimating monetary ones.

    And, all jokes aside, I think that the main problem with natural ecosystems (which, from where I sit, are a form of vital infrastructure not unlike roads or electricity, which are just as essential for life as I know it) is that the greatest monetary utility to be derived from them is derived in a destructive manner.

    Some other types of infrastructure have vaguely similar concerns, but ecosystems have it the hard way.

    An ecosystem which can reliably coexist with humans must be vastly more resilient, and, ideally, inherently profitable for some human organization or other. (BTW, you could view various environment-protecting laws, fees, agencies and charities as attempts to retrofit profitability upon “natural” ecosystems ;) no, really, think about it for a moment)

    P.S.:
    there apparently is no less than one person who found the waterboard shtick to be quote a thrilling ride unquote. As far as I can judge, he is not a synthetic reef mermaid person. I think I’ll get you two acquainted when you get back.

  68. Mr Non-Entity: @Hljóðlegur: Genetically-engineered sex-slaves, fun at first and then “meh”?
    Been done, really well. – “Welcome to Paradox” (Canadian Content!) version of Rob Chilton’s excellent short story “Acute Triangle.” Really, it’s quite good although the written story’s at least a trifle better, just because of the things you can do with a close tone in narrative conclusion.

    Thanks! That was interesting stuff. Kind of Twilight Zone Canada. I notice the wife was the queen Borg from one of the Star Trek Next Generation movies, only, y’know, with hair.

  69. @Hljóðlegur: You’re welcome, and thanks for pointing out the Borg Queen. Easy for me to miss that sort of thing when she’s not wearing the Borg Implant prosthetics. ;)

    @01: Re: genetically engineered sex slaves, or more directly, Cindy Crawford Clones etc… From moi on UseNet circa 1997:

    Besides, someone has to raise this individual. So suppose you run right
    out and clone Cindy Crawford (or whichever super-model is fashionable
    today), and you take her home and raise her. And when she is all grown
    up and very pretty, after years of dutiful and diligent parenting,
    (required if one is to have a viable adult) of course she will love you
    - as her daddy.

    Hmmm, there is a Greek Tragedy just waiting to be re-written here.

    For those who are bored out of their mind, a “treatment” for a TV series along those lines

  70. [...] I can’t shake the feeling that we as a species are really screwing up. Guess what? “There is no hope of saving the global coral reef ecosystem.” How’s that for [...]

  71. [...] I can’t shake the feeling that we as a species are really screwing up. Guess what? “There is no hope of saving the global coral reef ecosystem.” How’s that for [...]

  72. I can’t even read the article, let alone the comments.

    I have three degrees in Biological Sciences. I know that there have been MANY warmer periods than the present. In fact, we are now at a cool period, that is more likely to morph into an ice age, contrary to the panic stricken welfare scientists’ claims. The Earth used to be warmer than now, and had far more atm-CO2 than now.

    As Earth wobbles through the natural forces it experiences, mankind’s influence is as dramatic as the downdraft of a houseflies wing beats in a hurricane.

    Stop this insane fearmongering, especially if it brings you research grants or other rewards. Be man enough, to be true.

  73. @Richard Bramwell:

    Three basic questions. When were the two or three most recent hotter periods? What were the effects on mammals? Does a new ice age strike you as something to be concerned about?

  74. Hi Richard. Welcome to the sane part of the Internet. Here’s your visitor’s pass.

    Richard Bramwell:
    I can’t even read the article, let alone the comments.

    That probably explains some of your later remarks.

    I have three degrees in Biological Sciences.

    Cool. So do I. Plus a couple of post-docs. So do at least a few of the other commenters on the ‘crawl. We should start a club.

    I know that there have been MANY warmer periods than the present.

    Yup. During which the land mass we fondly refer to as “North America” was underwater. (Don’t take it too hard: the Burgess Shale isn’t a big hit with Creationists, either.)

    In fact, we are now at a cool period, that is more likely to morph into an ice age, contrary to the panic stricken welfare scientists’ claims.

    You know scientists on welfare? What was their publication record like?

    As Earth wobbles through the natural forces it experiences, mankind’s influence is as dramatic as the downdraft of a houseflies wing beats in a hurricane.

    Now on that score, even Richard Muller disagrees with you — and he’s spent most of his recent career beating the denialist drum with Koch Brothers funding.

    Stop this insane fearmongering, especially if it brings you research grants or other rewards.

    No research grants. My last climate-change post did end up as one of the “Top Science Blog Posts of the Year” a while back, but that accolade was bestowed by the Open Laboratory Project — which, given your admitted difficulty with the whole reading thing, might not cut much ice with you.

    Be man enough, to be true.

    What does gender have to do with climate-change reportage? Are you claiming that women are false?

  75. What does gender have to do with climate-change reportage? Are you claiming that women are false?

    Yes, Richard. What about that.

    Richard Bramwell of the effect of powerlines on animals?

  76. I have good news: you’ve been lied to. The coral reefs are fine, global warming is mild and nonthreatening, and 3/4 century of heavy GHG emissions have resulted in no increase at all in the rate of sea level rise.

    “Monitoring data collected annually from fixed sites at 47 reefs across 1300 km of the GBR indicate that overall regional coral cover was stable …..with no net decline between 1995 and 2009….”
    http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/index.php/heraldsun/comments/latest_research_no_the_reef_isnt_being_killed_by_warming/

  77. And more good news…
    http://www.worldclimatereport.com/index.php/2011/02/18/coral-reefs-expand-as-the-oceans-warm/