If a fox spends more energy to catch rabbits than those rabbits return in calories, it will not live very long.

Last week I left off my story of a young graduate student setting fish traps in a North Carolina stream, weighing the fish he captured, and estimating the oxygen use by the fish and also the ecosystems in which they lived, and concluding that sunlight would not be enough to pay for the consumer culture of the fish in New Hope Creek — and maybe not for the greater consumer culture that humans have become accustomed to.

Charles Hall said from that moment he first inventoried New Hope Creek he knew what his life was going to be. …


Renewable energy is unlikely to support civilization at its present scale. We know this by looking at fish in a mountain stream.

In a frantic search for some way out of the climate crisis, governments, scientists and creators are throwing time, money, and people at carbon dioxide removal by natural and artificial means. Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research Johan Rockström says quite frankly, “there is no plausible chance of an absolute zero landing by 2050.” The best we can hope for is a rapid decarbonization of the economy — by half every decade — followed by…


“Our recipes for a prosperous future are a prediction of what society will be forced to consider.”

Recently I had the good fortune to listen in on an interview with one of my favorite climate scientists, Kevin Anderson of the Tyndell Centre. I have often quoted Anderson in these pages and I profiled him in my books, The Paris Agreement (2015) and Burn: Igniting a New Carbon Drawdown Economy to End the Climate Crisis (2019). In this interview of May 13, 2021, Anderson brought home these salient points:

The political challenge is an order of magnitude different than from what most people would interpret from The Paris Agreement.
***
If you want to hit the 1.5°C target, the world…


“If, when they came out of camp, they found hostility and their house vandalized, their tenancy cancelled, then this, despite its evidently traumatic nature, was a survivable change of fortune.”

— Simon Winchester, speaking of the Japanese internment experience during WWII, in Land: How the Hunger for Ownership Shaped the Modern World, chapter 4 (2021).

In May 2000, the distinguished ecological systems thinker Howard T. Odum presented a paper at the international workshop, “Advances in Energy Studies,” in Porto Venere, Italy, that turned out to be the final contribution of his life. Two years after he died, it was published…


Elon Musk and Peter Diamandis, May 5, 2021 X-Prize Launch

The first successful transubstantiation is estimated to happen around 2035. After that we will each be able to back ourselves up to the cloud, if we can afford the data plan.

Near the start of World War II, Robert A. Heinlein published a story in Astounding Science Fiction called “Waldo.” In this fantasy, Waldo Farthingwaite-Jones was born too weak to even hold his head up or grasp a spoon. Perhaps he was also on the spectrum. He channeled his mind into the “Waldo F. Jones’ Synchronous Reduplicating Pantograph,” a prosthetic glove that directed a much more powerful mechanical hand. …


Worrying about the economy keeps techno-cornucopians and unicorns up at night. Us back-to-the-landers, not so much.

Oiled collage after images by Adnan Abidi / Reuters

Sitting barefoot beside the Indian River on Earth Day 2021, Tesla and Space X founder Elon Musk told Singularity University and X-Prize founder Peter Diamandis that the population problem will become a crisis by mid-century. I was expecting to hear him say overpopulation was killing the planet.

“We’ll need more people,” he said.

Musk was pointing out that over the next 80 years, in almost every country, population will shrink. According to a 2017 “Global Burden of Disease” study published in The Lancet, some…


Demand for soy in the EU uses 6 million square miles. 5.2 million of that is in South America.

Fifty-nine weeks ago I crossed the border from Belize and decided to make my stand in a small Mexican village with dirt streets and thatched roofs. I had been coming here to write for more than ten years and I knew that it would likely be well-insulated from the rest of the world as the pandemic raged. That was true for many months because this town, and many neighboring towns, wisely ignored the denialism of Mexican state and federal health authorities…


A year at a time is how we are taking life now. It is preparing us for our future.

Covid caught many, probably most, people in the world unprepared. Not unprepared in the sense of public health care systems, although there was that.

Not unprepared in the sense of social fairness, equity, or access, although deep flaws became obvious in those places too. Deeply ruptured social fabrics were laid bare in the US, UK, Italy, Spain, France, Mexico, India, South Africa, Brazil. The pandemic was an ironic, not to say ghastly, un-leveler. …


How do pandemics, climate variability, plastic, toxic pollution, and other threats affect fertility?

Image after Saisha Bloom: beinG sLAVE

Some time back, I came across an odd fact that did not seem to reconcile with what had I thought about natural systems and planetary homeostasis. Girls all over the world, from the capital cities of Europe to the remote regions of Pakistan, were getting their periods younger. In Europe, menarche declined from age 17 in 1840 to about 13 in 1970. In North America it declined from about 15 in 1890 to 13 in 1920. The age of onset was shortening.

This extends the window of…


Ökodorf Freie Republik Wendland at May 1980 Gorleben Protestcamp

We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us.
— expression in the Soviet era

In his breakthrough role as beatnik Maynard G. Krebs on “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis,” actor Bob Denver had an audible brand. He was unable to say the word, “work,” without a voice break, the inflected half of the word rising a couple octaves. That speech impediment was generally understood by a 1959 TV audience as denoting the beatnik aversion to labor, a false stereotype, not unlike later tropes about dirty hippies or pacifists spitting on veterans.

During the 2020 election cycle, Democrat…

Albert Bates

Emergency Planetary Technician and Climate Science Wonk — using naturopathic remedies to recover the Holocene without geoengineering or ponzinomics.

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