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Birds Are Vanishing from North America (nytimes.com)
493 points by wiggles_md 27 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 342 comments

This article doesn't mention the declining insect population at all but I would think it's clear that a quickly declining food source would be a major cause of population decline. I wonder if there's a similar decline in other animals that rely on insects, eg bats. Although, interestingly, the article does mention neonicotinoids as a direct reason for the decline in population.

It's hard to imagine humans taking the corrective solution here. My gut says we either continue on this road and completely destroy the natural world a la Trantor in Foundation, just one huge mega-city that fabricates all of its needs, or we die out and the planet recovers on its own.

> or we die out and the planet recovers on its own.

That makes it sound like there's some kind of natural 'ideal state' for the planet to recover to. Without us, the planet would just go on changing, without anything to judge the current environment at any point as good or bad to any particular standard.

Saving the environment is simply saving ourselves. Nothing more, nothing less.

+1 - I think the kind of marketing and messaging that makes environmentalism all about saving "the planet" and "the animals" and "the natural environment" really doesn't serve us well. A better strategic approach would be to highlight (with the right crafty messaging) that a very tiny statistical slice of earth's historical states and potential future states are any good at supporting large human populations comfortably like we do today, and our goal is preserving this state in our own self-interest. It's not environmentalism at all, it's human self-interest.

Your approach will fail for the same reason than an ethical environmental appeal does.

Enough humans who feel and fear their impending mortality are selfish and vindictive enough to obstruct change because they want to conserve whatever material comforts they have now and do not care about what happens to other people after they're dead. I would go so far as to say that some of them take a perverse pleasure in the idea of everyone else being worse off, going by the number of facially specious arguments and overtly sadistic rhetoric deployed by many self-styled 'skeptics'.

>say that some of them take a perverse pleasure in the idea of everyone else being worse off, going by the number of facially specious arguments and overtly sadistic rhetoric deployed by many self-styled 'skeptics'.

We don't even have to look at arguments and rhetoric. Simply go outside and observe. You can immediately see people driving conspicuously huge vehicles, and some of them have modified their vehicles to increase dangerous and undesirable emissions (noise emissions, combustion emissions e.g. coal rolling) for no other purpose but than to antagonize the people around them and intentionally degrade the natural environment.

Nearly every street you drive down in residential America is lined from one end to the other with lawns that have chemicals pumped in to increase growth unnaturally, and simultaneously chemicals pumped in to control undesired weeds and insects. None of this serves any practical purpose at all.

Look carefully at the ground and you'll find it's full of fragments of the discarded plastic and metal containers of quick junk food and the so-called "energy drinks". Not only is it bad enough we have to produce these items to satisfy a temporary need at the cost of creating permanent* garbage, we have to go and toss them by the side of the road just to illustrate how utterly callous and thoughtless we are.

Hopeless. Sometimes it feels very hopeless.

Hopeless? Aye.

I think part of the problem is we have become so hugely separated from the natural world. Nature and the environment isn't part of many people's lives, at all.

Go outside and look might reveal a few artificially manicured bits of monoculture grass, endless asphalt, concrete, poles, boxes and wires. Meat, milk, fruit, veg comes in plastic packs, and quite often ready cooked and prepared.

One of the things that stuck with me most reading The Uninhabitable Earth - the most strident and urgent call to action on climate and environment I ever came across, was in his preamble. [paraphrasing badly from memory here] He talks of being perfectly chilled at achieving growth by imposing a cost to nature, he's just not a "nature guy", and wouldn't dream of going near it for a holiday. It's OK to crow about being top of the food chain. Something about not caring about the cow so long as he can get the hamburger, not seeing an issue being a good city dweller, with completely separating ourselves from nature, from paving the planet in concrete and getting everything in packets. Sure, he goes on to say how he misunderstood, but FFS.

OK, now I start to appreciate the scale of the problem.

Hopeless? Feels that way, doesn't it?

> I think part of the problem is we have become so hugely separated from the natural world. Nature and the environment isn't part of many people's lives, at all.

The "disconnectedness" of people seems to be a big part of the issue. This applies to many cases where we might say that things are done wrong, but people don't seem to care.

For example, treatment of animals or other humans: When a person is given an opportunity to get close to, or get to know an animal or another person, their care for that animal (and animals in general) often increases - likewise for care for other humans, particularly ones of very different backgrounds.

So it is with nature as well. Give someone an opportunity to go feel the proven benefits of time in nature, and then show them a video of their "favorite" nature spot being clear cut, and they will have a negative reaction.

I lean more towards ignorance than malice. The average Earth person (out of all 11 billion) probably doesn't have as solid of a scientific or historical background to form an educated opinion on what affect we are having on the ecosystem in the long term.

It is certainly a factor. The other thing is that even for people that now it is very difficult to change consumer behavior. E.g. I came across a family of three on the underground train in London. One of them lamented the fact that she wouldn't be able to part in a climate change protest march the following day. The reason being that they were flying to Germany the next day. Oh...and they came from Texas ;-)

Population is ~7.7 billion

See! I don't even know how many people are on Earth :]

I don't disagree, but I also think it is important to note that what you are describing is baked into our entire economic system.

Economic actors all acting rationally in their own best interest, which automatically filters out any long term multi-generational outlook.

Capitalism is the root cause here.

That's a good point. Would be nice if vindictive people had to make an actual effort, instead of their position being the default path of least resistance.

>Economic actors all acting rationally in their own best interest

>Capitalism is the root cause here.

That is not how capitalism works, it works by providing value to the greater whole of people, that's how it obtains money. If a business isn't doing something we like, we don't purchase products, services, advice, etc. or at least that's how it should work. The bigger problem is why do we value the wrong things? or why are we unable to develop better solutions?

I agree there are things we can improve about the environment (for example plastic in oceans, etc.) but saying capitalism is the root cause is foolish and unsubstantiated.

> That is not how capitalism works, it works by providing value to the greater whole of people, that's how it obtains money. If a business isn't doing something we like, we don't purchase products, services, advice, etc. or at least that's how it should work.

The entire large industry called "marketing" exists explicitly to subvert this process. Why make something people need, or like, when you can make them like it or feel like they need it through persistent psychological manipulation in form of advertising? Hell, why make them like it at all if you can make it addicting instead? They'll hate every minute of their lives but still come back to your product.

Then there are countless ways of making money by providing value to someone, while providing lots of negative value to other people - also known as externalizing costs.

Point being, capitalism is good at making money, period. That this implies providing value to society is not true in general; in fact, it turns out it isn't the most efficient way of making money in many cases. And capitalism is really good at making money efficiently.

> The bigger problem is why do we value the wrong things? or why are we unable to develop better solutions?

Because capitalism is based on exchange value, not use value. The exchange value of keeping CO2 out of the air is $0. The exchange value of keeping bees and birds alive is $0. Neither of those things have any exchange value, but they have a massive amount of use value. There is a huge disconnect there. Explore marxism / socialism to learn more about this stuff.

> Explore marxism / socialism

Why? Are you such a fool to think this would actually work? Forcing people to provide value NEVER works and it NEVER will. Give up and come up with an alternative solution

Following one's desires is baked into our biology, and economic system is just the consequence. Kittens don't know about capitalism but they follow their desires.

Capitalism is just a mental framework which helps to satisfy one's desires in a big way without the need to kill people.

Full socialism, while very interesting to many here, especially when it comes to the final happy picture, unfortunately involves killing lots and lots of people, as history shows us.

There are different ways of looking at the "capitalism is the root cause here".

One is, "therefore let's get rid of capitalism and replace it with socialism/anarchy/whatever", which is generally a bad idea (and history proves that). Another is, "therefore let's focus on capitalism when looking for particular issues to fix, find those issues and fix them, without breaking the whole thing". Aka. not throwing out baby with the bathwater. I'm not sure if GP had the second thing in mind, but this would be the approach I think is best.

There has been quite a lot of killing arising from capitalist enterprises, some of which have employed their own armies.

One can also have desires which are more complex than mere impulse. The behaviour of soldiers willingly putting themselves in extreme harm’s way is one such.

It's hardly the fault of capitalism that lots of people do not believe in human responsibility for climate change. I wouldn't advise to force people into complying with your vision.

The point here is that it does't matter if they believe or not. Capitalism does not let them stay true to their beliefs.

Businesses that act in a sustainable way will not be as competitive as businesses that don't. So, it's very hard to be sustainable in a capitalism system that doesn't "price in" the externalities of the natural world that we've been taking for granted.

You can use the same example for globalization and offshoring of jobs. If I'm a business owner who manufactures cheap things, it doesn't matter how much I care about keeping my factory in the US or Europe because other factories will go to where the labor is cheapest and out compete me. So, I'm forced to do it too just to compete.

That's still not the fault of capitalism, but of the people opting for the cheapest solution. To introduce change, some kind of force would be required, which I strongly advise against. As soon as the self-interest of all actors is concerned things will change on their own.

Which is why it must be torn down.

Which gives rise to the question of whether saving the human species is actually worth the trouble. It might be, it might not be. I'm not convinced it needs to be saved at all costs.

>Enough humans who feel and fear their impending mortality are selfish and vindictive enough to obstruct change because they want to conserve whatever material comforts they have now and do not care about what happens to other people after they're dead.

Sent from my iPhone

Oh hey I have to survive in society, this means I can't have opinions about how utterly fucked up that society is, because if I wanted to do that, I should starve myself and die to avoid hypocrisy in the eyes of random internet strangers.

You are society. Society is a large number of individuals just like you all pointing at each other and proclaiming everyone else is the problem. Do not ask others to do things you yourself are not doing. You care about climate change? Show me, don't tell me.

Couldn't have said it better

I strongly disagree. I don't believe in an natural ideal state, however I can distinguish between a planet with a large number of species living in a biologically diverse set of ecosystems; an a biologically impoverished planet with fewer species and biomes.

I think it is fair to say that complexity and variety is a objectively good thing and that humanity's action causing a mass extinction event is objectively bad.

That's not to say that mass extinctions or biome change will occur without us.

I disagree and prefer a world with fewer species. Insects and birds going away is something I'm really happy about. For example, I hate mosquitoes and the noise birds make. Also not fond of birds defecating wherever.

Fortunately[1], those annoying birds and insects are going away[2] like never before!

  [1] for you
  [2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pollinator_decline
Are humans starving to death also something you'd be really happy about? Because if insects and birds go away, who is going to pollinate all that shit you plant and expect to be able to eat? Also not fond of your cities and farms pouring your waste into the oceans wherever.

As long as its humans in other countries, I don't really care either way. I have confidence in my country to figure something out.

Fortunately, most people aren't like you.

Is this satire?

No, but you thinking it would be shows your biases/filterbubble.

And you expecting it to be read straight shows yours.

I wrote it tongue in cheek, but I'm serious. Being surrounded by people that think like you makes me aware of that type of attitude.

> Saving the environment is simply saving ourselves. Nothing more, nothing less.

I disagree. I think nature has a value in itself, in all its complexity and beauty.

I think few people would argue that if the Louvre was destroyed it wouldn't be considered a loss for the world and for humankind, or that we don't still lament the loss of the library in Alexandria.

Of course, nothing of this matters from the perspective of the heath death of the universe. But that is a cynism that I consider juvenile.

It's also unlikely that all humans would die out even from severe climate change given our current technology.

You could say that saving the environment is just saving the current set of humans, or our modern way of life. It definitely sounds much less noble when put that way though.

> It's also unlikely that all humans would die out even from severe climate change given our current technology.

Up to a point, you could artificially sustain small populations (climate-controlled greenhouses and habitation). But there's a limit. We are not able to recreate the whole biosphere yet.

Which is all the reason to remember that, whatever we do, we absolutely cannot break our civilization's ability to maintain existing level of technology and improve on it. If we do break it, we're done. The Gulf Stream shutting down would be tough, but survivable. Global economy shutting down would be game over for humanity, preceded by unprecedented amounts of suffering.

> You could say that saving the environment is just saving the current set of humans, or our modern way of life. It definitely sounds much less noble when put that way though.

If you compare "our modern way of life" and the promises ahead to past millennia of humanity, it actually does sound very noble. I wouldn't wish medieval or ancestral life on my worst enemy.

> Saving the environment is simply saving ourselves

I wonder, though... we know, for example, that bees pollinate plants, and that we need plants to be pollinated for our survival. But if the bees die out, we can figure out another technical way to pollinate plants - it might be a pain to carry out, and we might be kicking ourselves for not saving the bees before it got to that point, but it can be done. If it comes down to a matter of survival, humans a a species will figure out a way to get what needs to be done, done. You might say that saving the birds and the insects now is the "simpler" route than replacing them, but it's starting to look like you'd be wrong, and we're not going to have any choice but figure out how to keep the human race going without them.

> If it comes down to a matter of survival, humans as a species will figure out a way to get what needs to be done, done.

Don’t count on it. Human civilization depends heavily on trust and cooperation, and a large number of complex systems functioning which nobody completely understands and most people barely notice. The whole endeavor is quite fragile.

Once basic systems start breaking down, people start starving and dying, and societies start to collapse, it can get real bad in a hurry.

There have been plenty of past examples of large-scale societies collapsing into ruin, with the survivors fleeing or dying out.

In case of major disaster such as meteorite hitting a metropolitan area, just in time logistics systems mean most major cities such as New York or London have enough food to survive for 2-3 days. If something happens that disrupts the supply chain 10 of millions of people will be starving in couple days. Imagine if something serious happened. In a week there would be anarchy and total collapse of law and order.

Which is why the most important constraint in dealing with climate change is ensuring that scenario never happens.

Note that he said species and you said civilization. Civilization could crumble, worldwide populations of humans could crater to under a million, and the species could survive for another hundred thousand years.

You're both correct, you're just talking past each other.

Nature is a non-linear system, and once things start to collapse, many things will collapse at the same time. We can deal with many challenges, but not at the same time.

Given enough time, perhaps we would be able to work around the disappearance of bees, for example. But that assumes the structure of society can survive that long. Climate change can cause agricultural collapse (due to droughts, floods, blights, etc.), which will lead to food shortage leading to revolts and famine. How many bee pollination researchers will be able to work through that crisis? Governments tend not to survive so well through disasters on the scales we are talking about.

Better hope billionaires succeed in trying to all emigrate to a space station or something in time. Really. It is so much easier to restart civilization from a pocket of technology.

I really don't like the destruction of our environment, and we should protect it, but the idea that humans depend on bees (and even more so for wild bees) for survival is a complete myth.

> The most essential staple food crops on the planet, like corn, wheat, rice, soybeans and sorghum, need no insect help at all; they are wind pollinated or self pollinating. Other staple food crops, like bananas and plantains, are sterile and propagated from cuttings, requiring no pollination of any form, ever. Further, foods such as root vegetables and salad crops will produce a useful food crop without pollination, though they may not set seed; and hybrids do not even require insect pollination to produce seeds for the next generation, because hybrid production is always human pollinated. Many of the most desirable and common non-hybrid crops, like heirloom tomatoes, are self pollinated, which is what makes their cultivars stable. [1]

There's a second misconception that the number of domestic bees is declining. This also isn't true. I think people are confused because of the increase in Colony Collapse Disorder. The actual number of domestic bees has increased over the past decade.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_crop_plants_pollinated...

We haven't come close to solving the environment, whatever that means. If we had that solution on any scale, then almost by tautology, climate change wouldn't be a problem.

Incidental, but almost all plants pollinate by wind, not by insects (and even fewer by bees): https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anemophily

Given our extremely limited basic understanding of the interlinked systems that constitute this planet's ecosystem, any attempts at large scale geoengineering are as likely to be beneficial as a brainsurgeon going at it with a baseball bat.

> That makes it sound like there's some kind of natural 'ideal state' for the planet to recover to.

If you want to know what the natural state for an area is, ask a native person from a population that has un uninterrupted culture, that is if you can find one.

A native person I know often describes a discorded ecosystem by saying: "The land is sick."

To equivocate and to claim all states are equally natural, is to deliberately miss the point.

A healthy ecosystem—and most of us haven't ever seen one—is obviously healthy when you see it.

It's a tautology to say that everything is natural. You could argue that plutonium and dioxin are natural, but without considering the concentration and distribution, it's meaningless semantics.

Chinese are "native people from a population that has un-uninterrupted culture". Not too great at preserving environment (reportedly improving lately I think).

Idea of a "noble savage" is a myth that is about as racist as it's opposite.

This is a long way from my expertise but I think that what you are referring to ('Chinese') is actually a large group of varying cultural and ethnic people that has seen a huge amount of change over millennia. I think this is significantly different to what the parent was referring to.

Don't sling epithets.

My using the word 'native' was a proxy for a type of culture: a close to the land hunter gatherer lifestyle. You know one that would necessarily make them keen observers of their natural environment.

I could have said aboriginal, but maybe you'll take offence to that too?

Ah, sorry, I didn't mean you are racist. Just the idea of noble savage. I should have been more careful with the wording.

Re: hunter-gatherer lifestyle, my understanding that people leading that are merely unlucky (or lucky) ones who didn't domesticate enough plants and animals to settle down and go through a population explosion. They certainly have a lot of knowledge about local ecosystems because they depend on that knowledge for survival.

But, a few successful domestications, some introduced species, few hundred years of nice weather and they will multiply and turn into the same kind of locusts the rest of humanity is. I think Maya or Aztec went through that. Hell, this was happening back when cyanobacteria was repeatedly wiping out life on earth before something figured out how to use oxygen. It is a general property of life -- consume and reproduce.

We might eventually grow out of it (I see a lot of promise in regenerative agriculture for example), but chances are not certain.

Traditional Knowledge is a real thing, separate from the "noble savage" stereotype.

>Chinese are "native people from a population that has un-uninterrupted culture".

Didn't they interrupt their culture with extreme prejudice like fifty-odd years ago?

Such a native person can compare what they see to what they lived in the past, or at best to what the cultural memory can still vividly recall. Which is at best few hundred years.

Without advanced systems of agriculture where I was dependent on thing likes mass herds of Buffalo migrating through my local regions I'd see it as sick too.

I would never use the phrase "ideal state", but rather "natural state". Though, even that is not quite accurate as humans are naturally-occurring too, but the things we do (and do to the planet) are not quite so "natural".

While thinking that "the planet is worse off because of humans" is a judgement, I think it's not unreasonable to assert that innocent life forms all over the world suffer by our actions (more than they probably would have if we weren't here), and they are powerless to prevent that. I think this is what people are intuitively feeling a sense of when they say things like "or we die out and the planet recovers on its own".

A beaver dams a river, flooding the shores and killing off the ecosystem. That’s natural.

A group of humans do it and it’s unnatural?


It's just what the word means. It's fun as a philosophical exercise to consider humans as natural and so too their interventions but at the end of the day, "natural" is a word that in most cases means not caused or created by humans. It's relative to us.

That's without assessing the goodness or badness of it. Any interventions we pursue to correct climate change and restore biomes will be every bit as unnatural as the ones that caused those things but they can also be good.

I think it has more to do with responsibility. Humans are capable of understanding the harm caused by our choices and that brings responsibility.

It's a question of scale. There aren't 7 billion beavers. If there were only 300 million humans, we wouldn't be having these issues.

What do you think of cyanobacteria and the poisonous oxygen they emitted hundreds of millions of years ago?

They were hugely disruptive and set off a massive extinction event... not to moralize the actions of cyanobacteria (who obviously act without agency), but the only reason we think what they did was fine is that we breathe oxygen!

This is the brilliance of natural selection. If it were any less robust life would probably have already gone extinct. It's "easy" to devastate the ecosystem and wipe out say 90% of biodiversity, but that remaining 10% becomes increasingly difficult to root out, as you're increasingly dealing with the hardened survivors. The massive bust leaves open ample under exploited niches, which then spurs rapid disruptive selection, and then subsequent sympatric speciation. Long after humans are gone something will probably be thriving feasting on our garbage.

Well, sure, there's stuff like anoxic life that lives off dissolved hydrogen in rock and will be mostly unaffected by anything we do. But the vast majority of life on Earth is exploiting the huge energy gradients created on the surface by sunlight and exploited by photosynthesis, and that's what most people are thinking of nowadays when we talk about "life on Earth".

Beaver dams don't kill off the ecosystem. Tons of other life forms make use of the newly-flooded area. I've personally watched herons perch upon the dam to catch the fish that are now swimming through the now-deeper waterway, for example.

Same thing when humans build dams, right? We're creating new ecosystems.

Is that a rhetorical question? There's quite some difference between a 200m tall concrete dam that holds 1m+ cubic decameters of water[0][1], and a bunch of twigs and logs jumbled in a creek that might be 2 meters high on average and actually house life like beavers, frogs, birds etc.[2]

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Bullards_Bar_Dam

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_impact_of_reserv...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beaver_dam#Benefits

So whether something is natural is a matter of scale?

If we cut down 1,000 acres of trees for wood, is that natural?

What about if a beetle infestation destroys a million acres? Still natural?

1) Was the beetle introduced to the area by humans (which is the case for a number of pests)

2) Were the trees killed made susceptible to the beetle because of heat stress, possibly caused by human driven climate change? (this is the case for some large scale infestations)

Overall, the point is; yes, where imbalances in nature are triggered by natural causes, there is no issue with that (earthquake, hurricane, long term climate oscillation).

Where imbalances in nature are triggered by humans, (IMHO) we should quite naturally regard that as a negative since a) we are intelligent enough to find ways of avoiding environmental degradation and b) Environmental degradation has both consequences to other forms of life as well as other humans.

I guess you're playing devils advocate here, but you're hardly adding to the conversation.

I’m challenging the predominant belief that anything humans do is “bad and unnatural” and anything animals do is “good and natural”, even though man is just as natural as any other organism on earth.

That premise doesn’t really hold up to rationale examination.

To continue the thought experiment, if the beetle infection was not due to any impact of humans, should we try and stop it to preserve the forests? By the above logic we shouldn’t because the destruction is “good and natural” and we would be interfering with nature.

The universe is indifferent. Humans don't have to be.

Human indifference isn't a binary state. I can drive around in a big SUV, doesn't mean I'm indifferent. All the people in the world can't, nor are obligated to care exactly as much as you do. Telling people otherwise is just moralising.

Humans are a subset of the universe.

Actually yeah, it's all a matter of scale. Of course we are animals and what we do is perfectly natural, like a volcano blowing up, any other species that had been so successful evolutionary speaking as ourselves would be doing the same thing. But that does not mean it is good for us or that can keep going on forever. It is probably what made us successful that will destroy us.

Get back to me when beavers are causing the extinction of thousands of other species and arguing about how to warn their descendants about radioactive waste.

Many species have caused widespread extinction on a level humans have barely approached. Cyanobacteria, for example: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Oxidation_Event.

The problem is that beavers didn't suddenly start doing that, the ecosystems they live in co-evolved around the existence of beavers.

On time scales relevant to evolution, human civilization is happening in an instant and nothing can adapt as fast.

The result is a gigantic loss of biodiversity.

Bacteria can mutate quite quickly and wipe out an entire species pretty fast, reducing biodiversity.

Can they wipe out thousands of species?

Wait, that says it took around 0.3 billion years, and when there was only single cell life, we have no clue about the biodiversity at that point in time. It cannot compare in time scale, and we have no clue if it can compare on biodiversity scale.

The point that's missing from this discussion is that beavers have been building dams for an eternity because it's part of their natural behaviour. The ecosystem has had ample time to adapt to it. An ecosystem is a delicate balance between systems that results from these systems co-evolving in the same environment for millions of years. The systems (plants animals seasonal change, climate) are all highly fine tuned to each other. Yes, this balance is sometimes abruptly disturbed under "natural" circumstances, but this is rare. What humans are doing in the last couple hundreds of years involves much more sudden changes to which eco systems have no time to adapt. It's the suddenness of the changes what's unnatural about it. Whether you call it natural or not is besides the point though. The point is that human dam building is a phenomenon very different from beaver dam building because, besides scale and impact, it did not gradually co-evolve with an eco system, but is an abrupt and disruptive change.

Actually beaver dams can be terrible for the ecosystem if you measure them the same way as human dams. They certainly can cause lots of death and flooding.

I think if beavers were intelligent and capable enough to have other ways of surviving, and could talk to each other about it, I think it would be pretty reasonable for them to discuss possible ways to reduce and/or isolate their impact on the environment.

I loathe to point out that birds which never existed cannot suffer more than birds that do exist.

Perhaps a better measure would be genetic diversity? A more diverse gene pool is more likely to survive the unexpected.

In my ponderings on this, I tend to think of a "post-human state." If the influence of homo sapiens on a place or ecosystem were to decrease dramatically, and insofar as any place or ecosystem would tend toward anything resembling equilibrium rather than constant/continued change, most of them will probably stabilize around a discernibly post-human state, rather than the pre-human one that prevailed throughout most of our history until the industrial era. It's just the lowest-energy and most likely outcome. So like, all the kudzu, rats and other wacky species we've introduced here and there, would have a go. Though they might not all make it. Pretty much impossible to predict, because it's a chaotic system, but also because the effects of the heat we've introduced have only started to play out.

I was actually wondering recently if there has ever been a huge spike in, say, a new species of algae or something, that caused a large change in the atmosphere. I know that what we're doing as a species isn't "natural", and we know better and could avoid it if we really wanted to, but it still had me thinking about what kinds of things the planet has gone through before that would have been alarming at the time if someone had been around to monitor it.

The Azolla Event (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Azolla_event) was a cyclical bloom of duckweed-like ferns in the Arctic Ocean about 49 million years ago which drew down atmospheric CO2 by an order of magnitude, from 3500 ppm (responsible for the warm, verdant climate you think about when you imagine the Mesozoic era) to 650 ppm (responsible for the cold, cyclical glaciations you think about when you imagine the modern world), and in which vicinity it has remained ever since.

(FWIW, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels pre-Industrial Revolution were about 280 ppm, and today are just over 400 ppm.)

Species are created on geologic timescales. Human activity is, in comparison, instantaneously destroying biological diversity. Evolution simply doesn't have enough time to adapt species to the sort of exponential changes we're seeing in their environments.

Evolution is like gravity. It doesn’t have to adapt to anything on any timescale that is important to our anthropological ideas of “change” or “environment”.

The Great Oxidation Event (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Oxidation_Event) was exactly that. Oxygen-producing organisms caused the extinction of almost all life, over two billion years ago.

> 'ideal state'

There may not be an ideal state, but maybe parent is talking about reverting the damage we are producing.

> Without us, the planet would just go on changing

That's true, but at the same time it is not a valid excuse to keep making damage. Someone could argue that killing you today is OK since you'll eventually die.

> Saving the environment is simply saving ourselves. Nothing more, nothing less.

You can also word it as 'destroying the environment is killing ourselves', that is more or less the same we hear every day.

"Ideal state" is inserted by your own bias. There are plenty of changes made by humans to the planetary system and some of them will be undone once humans are not around to maintain those changes.

So what? What's the higher purpose?

Purpose? Ultimately there is none, of course. But short term there's the prolonged existence of our species.

It's not so much that I completely agree with your sentiment, than that I think this is an incredible way to phrase the issue. Likely more effective, and I think I'll try switching to it.

Saving ourselves for a little while. At the end of the end, no one outruns entropy.

"I wonder if there's a similar decline in other animals that rely on insects, eg bats"

Bats have had a massive population dip in several areas in the americas, up to and including to the point where places bats hibernate to have been forbidden in an effort to stop the spread of a fungus ('White Nose Syndrome') that causes the bat to wake during hibernation, speeding its metabolism and causing it to starve itself. Several species have gone from common to endangered/critically endangered because of this. There's ongoing research as to how bats became more vulnerable to this existant disease- is it higher temps? Toxins?

> Trantor in Foundation, just one huge mega-city that fabricates all of its needs

Trantor required continuous supply from 20 agricultural worlds to survive. Pretty much all necessities of life for trantorian were externally sourced, with the possible exception of water.

Once that shut down after the 260 sack and the Imperial Family leaving for Neotrantor, population crashed from 40G to 100M.

>This article doesn't mention the declining insect population at all but I would think it's clear that a quickly declining food source would be a major cause of population decline.

If you cast a wider net you'll see that this mass extinction goes beyond birds and insects to all living creatures including plant life. Year after year we destroy more and more of the forests and other natural places while saturating the earth with more and more of our garbage and synthetic trash and plastic that will never decay but will serve to poison the ecosystem we all depend on to survive. The vast majority of public concern is focused on, "global warming" which is only a tiny part of the damage we are doing. Anyone who even attempts to raise the issue of our massive overpopulation, which causes and exacerbates all of our environmental issues (as well as many of our social ones) is instantly castigated and derided as a lunatic or a Malthusian, while we add another billion people to our already shattered ecosystem.

I pity the kids!

Pesticides are necessary for current crop productions .. crops that go to growing fuel (ethanol), food starch and other things we have mass use of, but that are not going to be sustainable.

Bee populations are suffering greatly and we needs those bees to grow a lot of our food. It doesn't help that bees are shipped in to places like the Almond farms in California, putting them in a lot of stress and hurting their colonies. Even though worker bees only live 2 ~ 4 weeks, the stress of transport does affect these pollinators.

It would make sense the decline in insect populations affecting birds for sure. Pesticides aren't limited to areas around farms and most likely find their way far out into the environment.

So if pesticides are the problem the question is, how do deal with the agricultural industry that depends on them? Is it possible to get our population to stop consuming as much crop based product and prevent more of the pesticides from entering the environment? Or is there a way to limit their effects?

> a la Trantor in Foundation, just one huge mega-city that fabricates all of its needs

If I am not mistaken, Trantor relied on an external supply chain from other planets in the empire in order to survive. It struck me as enormously brittle at the time and indeed in the books.

Loss of insects, likely combined with the huge increase in domestic cat populations.

> continue on this road and completely destroy the natural world

I'd generally agree with that dystopian line of thinking.

> the article does mention neonicotinoids as a direct reason for the decline in population

current administration is firmly behind even further decline: https://newfoodeconomy.org/neonicotinoid-ban-reversal-center...

If you'd like to help with this issue you can replace the plans in your yard with native plants.

Most of the insects in your area CAN NOT eat the plants in your yard.

That's one of the reasons they're planted - they look better and last longer.

However, if insects can't eat them then there are less birds.

HOAs will often fight you over this so you might need to educate them.

Outdoor cats (both domestic and feral) don't help either.

Indeed, insect population decline was the first cause that came to mind, and then I read:

> In addition to habitat loss, pesticides may have taken a toll.

Which is also the main cause for insect population decline. I just cannot believe why governments still allow the use of pesticides, it is so damn wrong just for economic purpose.

> or we die out and the planet recovers on its own.

I think all these scenarios are unrealistic. If at all, and that is still a big if, only the vast majority would die.

So hooray, I guess.

"... just one huge mega-city that fabricates all of its needs, ... "

Plug for "Girl's Last Tour" anime/manga.

> the planet recovers on its own.

Like all those other planets without us, like Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Uranus,...

As far as we know those planets are devoid of life. Whereas the earth has been teaming with life for billions of years. During that time the earth has gone through thousands of extinction events with 6 mass extinctions (when upwards of 90% of all life went extinct).

Our success (humans/mammals) is the result of one of those extinctions. So yeah, life has a strong foot hold on earth and it will continue to do so long after we're gone.

Wouldn't you then be inclined to agree that planets being devoid of life is the natural state?

...we die out and the planet recovers on its own.

I like to think that the point of humanity is to destroy as many genetic lines as possible, before going extinct ourselves. A trial by fire that weeds out all but the most resilient. Eventually evolving into new, even better intelligence.

Evolution in the sense of natural selection is an incredibly brutal, dumb, and silly subtractive process. I urge my fellow hn commenters not to mistake this for some higher purpose or value. Its an easy mistake to make but the selection pressures that would leave some survivors of the Holocene implies no higher, better intelligence. Often it involves greedy local optimization. Roaches and rats for example are well suited to survive and although clever and resourceful they aren't exactly what might be thought of something that might lead to uberintelligence or something better than our evolutionary path.

That's why I prefaced it with "I like to think" to indicate a sense of wistfulness

Ah, one can hope.

Well, there are different types of resilient. Many domesticated animals and livestock will outlive their wild counterparts because they're useful to us - but the day we go, I'm not so sure how well they will do!

It's pretty clear humans are fine with getting any given species down to populations as low as dozens so long as they don't completely go extinct.

This is one of the saddest things I've read in a long time. Birds are amazing. It's amazing to me that they are the descendants of dinosaurs and they're all around us. Their songs and plumage are beautiful to me.

> Grassland species have suffered the biggest declines by far, having lost 717 million birds. These birds have probably been decimated by modern agriculture and development.

This one I'm not totally sure is even related to climate change. I don't want to tell the person next to me to "stop trying to make a better life for yourself" so I'm not sure what the solution to this is right now.

Not that it is necessarily the answer—but things like buying organic (reduce pesticide use), planting flower varietals that can be homes to diverse insect populations, consuming less animal protein, can be a good start.

Part of what I think we're seeing is that people are allowed to do whatever they want with their land without consideration for its wider impact on the environment. Just like we think that maybe destroying habitats by building dams, we should be cognizant of how and what we're doing to the environment with (especially) our farming practices.

We could have a better life for ourselves without following the status quo and participating in the exponential economic growth that destroys ecosystems. We could just take back the majority of the world's wealth which has been concentrated in the hands of a few that are pitching us against each other in this economic rat race.

They are basically the only higher form of wildlife everyone experiences on a daily basis, even in very urban environments.

It's not until the suburbs with trees that you start seeing squirrels and larger animals.

Chicago has squirrels everywhere except for the loop. And there are rats absolutely everywhere too! I imagine it’s similar in most US cities.

Since I almost never see it mentioned in any threads related to this subject, am I thrilled that the main article actually references Silent Spring. I remember growing up that people thought that we had somehow managed to avoid the future it portrayed, but no, we have not. Another generation and the purveyors of death are back selling the cure for other species some people haven't learned to live in balance with.

People also think we avoided the future predicted by “The Population Bomb” but we didn’t.

We've explicitly avoided the predictions that Paul Ehrlich made in The Population Bomb: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon%E2%80%93Ehrlich_wager

Predictions without deadlines are not useful because you can keep kicking the can down the road forever. That's exactly what Paul Ehrlich has done since all of his predictions didn't happen.

Ehrlich's timing was not great and his book is almost unreadable but the things predicted therein have come to pass. It really is more crowded in Yosemite than in downtown LA, and the air quality is worse. There really aren't any non-toxic fish left to catch.

People who are experts that is.

We obviously did.

From Chapter 6 of the "Population Bomb," titled "What If I'm Wrong?":

"To cover this contingency, I would like to propose an analogue to Pascal's famous wager… If I'm right, we will save the world. If I'm wrong, people will still be better fed, better housed, and happier,thanks to our efforts. Will anything be lost if it turns out later that we can support a much larger population than seems possible today? Suppose we move to stabilize the size of the human population after the "time of famines" at two billion people, and we achieve that goal by 2150. Suppose that in 2151 someone invents a machine that will produce nutritious food or anything else man wants in limitless quantities out of nothing. Assume also that in 2151 mankind decides that the Earth is underpopulated with just two billion people. Men decide that they want more company. Fortunately, people can be reproduced in vast quantities by unskilled labor who enjoy their work."

And this quote from an earlier chapter:

"What will be done with leisure time and money when all vacation spots are crowded beyond belief? Is it worth living in the Los Angeles smog for 50 weeks in order to spend two weeks in Yosemite Valley - when the Valley in the summer may be even more crowded than L.A. and twice as smoggy? What good is having the money for a fishing trip when fish are dead or poisonous because of pesticide pollution? Why own a fancy car in which to get asphyxiated in monster traffic jams?"

Live in Los Angeles, can confirm.

> To cover this contingency, I would like to propose an analogue to Pascal's famous wager… If I'm right, we will save the world. If I'm wrong, people will still be better fed, better housed, and happier,thanks to our efforts.

Thanks to our efforts...how arrogant to claim future responsiblity for our success at feeding and housing 8 billion people. Of course our present ability to do that has nothing to do with The Population Bomb or the mania it encouraged.

The fall in fertility in developed countries (whose populations are responsible for the majority of resource use) definitely had a lot to do with it.

>> I remember growing up that people thought that we had somehow managed to avoid the future it portrayed, but no, we have not.

I read this comment re: Silent Spring on Thursday and it kept coming to mind hearing everything about the climate strikes Friday. I think this is profoundly, frighteningly correct.

The article mentions it briefly, but outdoor cats are also a considerable contributor to bird deaths. Feral cat colonies obliterate bird populations.


TIL feral cat colonies exist...

When the news broke that bugs were disappearing, this was the expected followup. Right?


Everyone, join in the protests tomorrow!


I'm from New Zealand, which has a lot of birds, and I live in California. The forests here are eerily quiet, I hate it. Back home the birdsong in forests is deafening.

I'm from California but I live in New Zealand. The birds here are very noisy in the morning. It's almost plague levels of birds on my farm, of many many varieties (Aussie Magpie, spurwing plover, thrush, morepork, tui, kingfisher, swamp harrier, wood pidgeon, ducks, and others that I haven't identified yet or forgot about. There are even a few exotics that escaped the conservatory in town and decided to live here and breed. Not to mention the bees everywhere, both honey and bumble.

We're managing to make species go extinct at a great rate, too, unfortunately. Habit loss is probably the biggest issue

People are quick to point out the lack of bugs and habitat, but are leaving out a big killer -- your damn cat.


(mostly feral cats... but your lil furball ain't helping)

Wait a minute. That article says "outdoor cats killed somewhere in the ballpark of 2.4 billion birds in the U.S. per year". The NY Times article linked here says that the bird population decreased by "nearly 3 billion birds" over 50 years. So in 50 years about 120 billion birds were killed by cats, and only 117 billion replacement birds were born? Seems like if we killed the cats, we'd be overrun by birds!

I went to Australia and spent a day hiking in the blue mountains. I remember thinking that the bird noises were so loud. Not just "huh listen to all the birds" but "it sounds like someone is pumping this in through speakers". Never heard anything like it in America.

Maybe that noise level is just normal? I've only been doing meaningful hiking for the past ~10 years. Does anyone older than I am remember birds being much louder in the past?

Anytime someone brings up Monsanto they are downvoted because without pesticides humans cannot feed themselves apparently. And herbicides are for plants only so of course they have no effect on insects. /s

Bought by Bayer, that name will be gone soon because of the well earned negative perceptions.

Well, not sure if Bayer is such a good name either. Bayer was part of conglomerate producing Zyklon B used by Germans to kill millions of people.

I mean they also were the first to market Heroine, that hasn't really stopped sales of asprin.


Yes, the marketing of heroines preceded them and is generally harmless (protests against "Wonder Woman" notwithstanding).

Pretty sure it was autocorrected.

Hugo Boss used to make Nazi uniforms and Volkswagen was literally founded by Nazis.

I think we need to reference more recent crimes if we want to write off entire companies.

What would be interesting is to determine what's within range and what isn't. I'll go out on a limb and say WW2 is beyond that horizon.

Bayer knowingly sold antihemopheliac factor contaminated with HIV.


That should be bigger news. But as usual, quiet settlement and marginalized victims. 20,000 victims and a 300 million payout.


Ignoring that Monsanto no longer exists, what particular relevance do they bring to the conversation that makes it worth singling them out? There are many companies that produce herbicides. There are companies, not including the former Monsanto company, that produce insecticides that are strongly linked to insect population decline. Wouldn't they be equally interesting, if not more interesting, to name here? It is not clear why one would bring up Monsanto, and only Monsanto, which explains why such comments would be downvoted as spam.

You're the only one who brought them up so far and you don't seem to have been downvoted.

Thats true. Reddit seems to be more infested with the pro monsanto crowd. Many of their arguments sound very legitimate as in - try feeding the human race some other way type arguments. But then we must consider this ongoing mass extinction event which seems intimately tied to the use of pesticides and herbicides that apparently, according to the experts, are not harmful to unintended insect populations.

It’s hard to know whats true and what isnt with all the misinformation being spread around.

It's not hard to know, just people being lazy to do their own research.


Who do you suggest we kill?


This is literally Thanos' plan in Infinity War/Endgame. I never expected to hear someone argue for it in real life.

> Noone in particular. Just let the lack of food do its thing.

So the poor then?


Besides the absolute inhumanity of mass genocide, your comments rings of hyperbole unless you are willing to lead the charge by offering your own life before anyone else's.

"the absolute inhumanity of mass genocide" - If your focus is "survival of humans as a species", what's so "inhumane" about it? You are focusing too much on the individual human and not on the species.

And of course I wouldn't sacrifice my own life first, since from my perspective that's obviously the most important thing and everything else is secondary. But once my life is preserved, I look at the bigger picture and see that we (I) would obviously be better off if we killed off 50% of the remaining population.

Why is that so hard to wrap your head around? I'm fairly sure you would see it the same way (if you would just admit it to yourself).

Returning to WWII is a scaring but it seems that increasing popular idea. We can do it better, and we must do it better this time.

Returning to WWII isn't going to do anything useful, even if you do want to go down this intellectual rabbit-hole. I've actually looked into this before.

Go look at how many people died in WWII. Was it a lot? In absolute numbers, sure. As a percentage of the human race? No, not really. It barely made a dent in the worldwide population. You can look at population graphs over time, and it barely registers, if at all. Remember, WWI also killed a lot of people, but more people died from the Spanish Flu pandemic.

I'm sorry, but war just isn't a very good form of population control any more. Maybe it was in Medieval times, but it isn't now. Even with the horrific numbers of dead, it's just not that much of the overall population, and the amount of destruction it wreaks on everything is insane: cities leveled, resources wasted on building war materiel, and of course the ridiculous amount of oil burned (which just makes the global warming problem that much worse). Modern militaries are huge consumers of oil when they're deployed.

> war just isn't a very good form of population control any more

That's because war isn't a form of population control. It's a form of conflict resolution.

I never said it was; it seemed that someone 2 levels up was suggesting this.

Who said anything about WWII? I certainly did not. All I'm saying is that we would be a lot better off with less than 4billion people on the planet than 9billion. How we get there I didn't say anything about.

> herbicides are for plants only so of course they have no effect on insects

Is pretty obvious that herbicides kill insects indirectly. They are killing its sources of food (wildflowers and weeds). They have a deep impact over insects.

Hence the "/s", aka "end sarcasm"

This hurts to know. I know we are living through an extinction event but having numbers like these really make it sink in.

I feed the birds in my backyard every day, it's a joy to observe the variety that live in just a small grove of trees.

I have a tendency to always look up in the sky and take note of soaring birds of prey, they are awe-spiring to say the least.

(serious) Is there any hope? Its just one problem after another (probably because everything is linked).

What are the chances that we will get our act together or be able to engineer ourselves out of all of these problems?

The fact that wetland bird populations are actually growing is a strong sign that we can fix this, if we try.

Bird conservation efforts in the last few decades mainly focused on wetlands. See DDT, national wildlife refuges, and the duck stamp.

So, it's not like the decline is inexorable. But it's not going to fix itself.

All those wetlands are filled with water, which we are polluting. Trump removing the Clean Water Act last week also doesn't help the situation. Eventually this water will get contaminated, insects and species will die. There's no doubt in my mind of that if we keep putting money first.

The Trump administration's reinterpretation of the Migratory Bird Treat Act of 1918, which protects migratory birds, also doesn't help.

They interpret it to only prohibit intentionally killing protected birds. So, if you wanted to, say, drain a wetland that migratory birds depended on to build a parking lot, which would wipe out nesting grounds and lead to a lot of bird deaths--that would be fine under the Trump interpretation as long as you aren't building the parking lot to intentionally kill the birds.

This has already started having an effect. The US Fish and Wildlife Service, for instance, no longer stops loggers from cutting down trees with nests of protected birds in them, killing eggs or chicks.

Wow, that's unbelievably fucked up....

Cool! I don't know much about bird conservation efforts but it is encouraging that we are having success in some areas.

I've been working in environmental advocacy for about 8 years. I'm pretty sure we won't go extinct. I am also pretty sure this era of peace and prosperity is coming to a close. I think new technical solutions are coming, but I don't think they're getting here fast enough to guarantee that every country will get enough food. I recommend your children move to higher latitudes and altitudes.

Already ahead of you. Moved my children (all under 10) from Austin, TX to Ithaca, NY (above 42 latitude) based on long-term climate change forecast models and detailed regional models that I ran based on what data I could gather, as well as taking feedback loops into account.

I took regional agricultural production and soil quality, active regional environmentalism, presence of higher education (Cornell), water sources, historical wildfires, and more into account. I'm hopeful that I picked a place that will give my children a less frightening future than the rest of the country, at least for a while longer.

I'm working on buying some land now to start working on some basic agricultural production and building a home designed around "edge case" risks being less edge than normal such as extreme weather, temperature, vermin, and unreliable utilities.

Don't wait on a consensus solution because it's difficult and slow to establish consensus and it's easy for malicious actors to frustrate. Get together with like-minded friends and engage in direct action against environmental criminals that will draw public attention to their malfeasance.

No. John Forbs Nash did the math 40 years ago. Nothing changes until its profitable to change and it will only be profitable to change when its already to late.

That's if we leave it to the market. There are other options, such as direct action, collective action and various forms of state intervention.

It is far worse than that. Market capitalism can not move us from local maxima even when we know far higher maxima exist.

What? R+D investment is still a real thing, even if investors have shorter time horizons than they used to. There are still firms sacrificing short term gains for long term ones.

I wonder if the market can exhibit “profit tunneling” where you can temporarily violate the classical rules as long as you end up “making up for it”.

Chances are slim to none. Once permafrost goes there is no stopping it. It's already starting to go...

I have a suggestion for obtaining perspective. If we could find the right kind of biologist, we might ask them to estimate how many other species went extinct by destroying their environment. How common is that? I know it happens with deer and rabbits on islands but what about more generally. I know our situation is different, but I'd still like to know and factor it in to a larger answer.

>What are the chances that we will get our act together or be able to engineer ourselves out of all of these problems?

Engineering is what got us into this problem. Foolish to hope it can get us out.

Rowing the boat got us out this far, it would be foolish to think that rowing the boat could get us back /s

Thermodynamics doesn’t work like that. There’s no undo button.

Thermodynamics doesn’t in the sense that entropy always continues... but that’s not really relevant. Climate change does have undo buttons.

Things like biodiversity loss may not.

Well, the further you go, the less likely is it that you can row it back... What is the exact opposite of engineering.

What means that you made a clear point, that I don't think anybody misunderstood, with a clear optimistic message. Still I think it's more pessimist than the reality.

We didn't have to understand the systems and their feedback loops to break them.


Sadly, our system of infrastructure funding is predicated on increasing populations and growing tax bases. A population decline would result in bankrupt cities and even worse infrastructure problems.

With a future of climate-induced migrations, we will likely face these problems anyway as people leave areas and never come back (or simply die) after "edge case" disasters strike.

There are better solutions to climate change. But access to solid sex education, free birth control, and legal and safe abortions would go far to aid in a lot of issues, over population included. It wouldn’t even require any draconian measures, just give people the tools for proper family planning.

You realize that the latest global 2050 population estimates while being more or less unchanged in total (11B+), had an upward prediction for Africa as a direct consequence of the Trump administration's changes in support for birth control programs in the region?

Sorry for the missed date. Obviously this was the 2100 projection, not the 2050 one. reference: JPFP The Japan Parliamentarians Federation for Population NEWS LETTERNo.60 August 2017 “World Population Prospects: Have their continuous upward revisions ended?"


"Furthermore although Africa’s total fertility rate (TFR) is falling if only moderately, it is still high, at around 5.0. This means that alongside promoting economic development in Africa, it will be prudent to strengthen support for expanding RH services there, including family planning. A source of concern for Africa’s fertility rates from now on, however, is that the reactivation by the Trump Administration ofthe Mexico City Policyis an obstacle to any such strengthening. This decision taken by the U.S. will have a major impact on Africa’s population issues, and policies will be needed to counter that."

I don't get this argument. How are we going to decide who is trimmed? Who does the trimming? How will they be trimmed? It's a non-starter. Sure we may have too many people but who would actively support killing people? especially when the people causing the most damage are the wealthiest that read sites like this

I think -- hope -- they meant trimming future growth via abstinence. Not killing people.

There are people in this thread explicitly advocating killing people.

> Sure we may have too many people

Don't just assume this. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=usdJgEwMinM


Eugenics implies reducing the gene frequency of genes bad for society either through sterilization or mass killings. Reducing the population proportionately through evenly reduced fertility rates like the one child policy wouldn't change gene frequency.


"Reducing" (by means unspecified) sounds uncomfortably close to mass killing.

Worse, the logic of the "climate action now" position is that we can't wait for 2050. That will be too late. Well, if you want to reduce the population by 2050, what concrete steps do you propose? (I know, you didn't say 2050. I think "action now" is inherent in the logic of your position, though.)

Reducing could simple as not adding that many more all the time. Increasing the level of global education will have that effect in itself.

Sure, not adding will work... by 2200, maybe 2100. But, if you believe the current panic about the climate, that's far too late. So if you think that the population has to be reduced, and you think that we need action by 2050 at the latest, what is your proposal?

Obviously, "not adding" is good but not sufficient. We need to decrease the population. There are multiple ways to do that (all unpopular): 1) (the obvious) actively kill some people. That would work but most people don't like that option. 2) inactively kill some people - by not trying to feed everyone, not trying to prolong the life of sick people etc. That's also not popular (but would help). 3) forcefully reduce increase by placing limits on numbers of children per person, forced sterilisation etc (also not popular). 4) Just wait; the climate change we've started + the rapid decrease in resources available will at some point force a massive die-off. That seems to be what everyone is going for..

You cannot fix overpopulation while still keeping your empathy and "everyone has a right to life" hats on. There needs to be a decrease and it will have to be ugly and unpleasant. No way around that. It's either survival of the species or the death of humanity. You have to take off the civilized glasses if you actually want to fix the global problem (which is the number of humans inhabiting the planet beyond its sustainable limits).

If we're willing to abandon empathy and kill massive numbers of people, one wonders what the point of us surviving as a species is. Isn't it better to die with our humanity intact, rather than to live on as monsters?

So you're advocating genocide. Great.

Just so you know, there isn't too many people for the planet. The planet can handle a lot more. What it can't handle is this many people at the US's level of consumption. But not consumption of food of medicine, but of banal shit like driving huge trucks with 10 MPG everywhere instead of using public transport, or overnight shipping for new iphone every year.

The simple solution is to stop consuming like crazy, which can be easily achieved by adding the planet-destroying externalities to price of everything.

Instead of, you know, genocide.

If there is no engineering solution coming soon, that is the only peaceful one. Either that or our hand will be forced by mother nature like whole countries start to get wiped off the face of the earth. I assume we will adapt if the change is not fast enough though.

So no proposal, just a dim view of our possible outcome if the overpopulation is not solved. The problem lies in how we view the earth as a personal resource instead of a shared habitat.

Given that our current education system seems to result in a sharp rise of the flat-earthers and the anti-vaxers, spreading it might just do the trick /s

Reducing can mean helping developing countries advance to a point where they have a social safety net, less children per family by having better sex education, more opportunities for women, access to contraceptives.

Or not raise the level and just let them die out. Is also an option. Not saying it's the best one, just saying that it is an option.

> "Reducing" (by means unspecified) sounds uncomfortably close to mass killing.

he's calling for basically this elsewhere in the thread.

You cannot deny that it would work. If we are seriously researching (global, species wide) solutions, it has to be part of the possible solution set.

If your focus is "survival of a given individual", then I agree it's probably not a solution. But if your focus is "survival of the human species in the long term", then it very much is a part of the solution space.

No it won't, because most of the world-destroying is done by the West (especially the US) because of high-tech high-consumption with no regards to environmental externalities.

Even if you march everyone in Africa and India do death camp (and it's always Africa and India with people like this), the US is more than capable of destroying the people by itself.

Our socio-economic model is completely dependent on 'growth' and consumption. It can not accept abstinence in any form as a solution to anything.

You first.

I'm very gay so it's pretty easy for me not to have children.


He said reduce, as in the numbers are to high now.

Still in?

Stop putting your cat outside

"Bird" is the word today: also on the front page now:

> "The Crisis for Birds Is a Crisis for Us All": https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21018850

> Grassland species have suffered the biggest declines by far, having lost 717 million birds. These birds have probably been decimated by modern agriculture and development.

This has been known for a while. I remember hearing a piece on NPR about this maybe a decade ago. The problem is actually that we have been working hard to reforest, and haven't left grassland. Everything is either forest, or developed, with very little in-between. One of the proposed solutions was to simply not mow 100% of your yard. Leave some bit of it unkempt. There's a local monastery that does this, and there are birds there that I haven't seen anywhere else in the area, so I think there's something to the strategy.

This apparently isn't a popular opinion, but: this world is precious. I would even go so far as to say miraculous. Until we wake up to this fact, we will continue to ennui ourselves and this world into oblivion. It's hard to prove (or even study), but I believe this is the root cause of all the other tragedies. It is not something we will merely engineer our way out of.

We don't like religion (or in many cases, even spirituality), and the modern scientific metaphysics has no space for "miracles," so we don't have a coherent framework in which to talk about or even remind ourselves of this profound truth. Each of us is left to cobble something together for ourselves (and for the few people around us that we trust not to think we're crazy).

I do think that psychedelics seem like one promising avenue. Perhaps they will help give us the inspiration to fill in this tragic blindspot.

Edit: If the votes are any indication, then I was too hasty in calling this opinion unpopular. Perhaps more of us suspect this than are willing to say it out loud.

Edit 2: On that note, I've been scared to share my own crazy take on this, but I'll just leave this here: https://www.lifeismiraculous.org

>modern scientific metaphysics has no space for "miracles," so we don't have a coherent framework in which to talk about or even remind ourselves of this profound truth.

I'm not sure that this is true. As my understanding of the world has increased, my appreciation of it has also increased, as has my sense of wonder. The term 'miracle' implies some supernatural cause, but I don't need something supernatural to understand the preciousness of the world I find myself in. Nor do I struggle finding a way to talk about this.

My own hypothesis is that the world is simply too complicated for any one person to comprehend on large scales any more, and when it comes to environmental concerns, the problem of the commons completely kicks our ass.

It also helps you understand that no greater power is around to reset any damage or prevent total destruction of life on earth. There is no reason life needs to exist, it just does by an extreme amount of good luck and billions of years of evolution

I'm not sure I fully know your stances on all of this, but Religion is not really a prerequisite for fully appreciating how beautiful yet precarious our biosphere truly is.

Engineering solutions to combat or circumvent Climate Change is our ONLY way forward. But first we need to get a critical mass of our American citizenry to be convinced we have an actual problem. Especially, in fact, a large segment of the electorate that's VERY religious and continually refuses to accept the facts about AGW.

I say Americans here because a disproportionate percentage was/is being caused by us, and because we also play a unique place in world affairs.

Carl Sagan wrote about the numinous, a feeling of awe from looking at the night sky. Can't remember if it was Cosmos, or Contact, or one of his other books.


The Sublime is a similar concept from the Romantic era.


I agree that religion (especially as it is conceived today) is not the answer.

I also agree that engineering will be required. When I said "merely engineer," I meant that engineering cannot be a replacement for our awakening to the "miracle," but must be used in service of it.

> Engineering solutions to combat or circumvent Climate Change is our ONLY way forward.

I think that this perspective ignores the environmental problems inherent in a capitalist mode of production, and in fact plays into them.

I think that a political revolution could be imminent, and I would urge those concerned about the future of life on this planet to consider alternative modes of economics.

Capitalism is based on infinite growth (economists even laugh at people like Malthus who proposed otherwise) and on fungibility of values (money is green no matter where from). This basically leads to a necessity of destroying nature for the sake of realizing economic growth. We need at least start to take seriously the fact that, the way capitalist economy is conducted, there is no way forward to save the environment.

What form of "Capitalism"? The unfettered type that sits all the way to the right of the spectrum (that does't exist, because it would only last a few hours), or the overly regulated one all the way on the left of the spectrum?

By that logic, capitalism leads to a necessity of murdering your business rivals for the sake of realizing growth.

Capitalism happens inside a framework of laws. There are strong laws against murdering your competitors, that's why this doesn't happen (nowadays). There is a whole set of unethical behaviors, however, that are commonly used for the goal of producing a profit.

The laws are not generally part of capitalism, but imposed upon it to prevent various harmful activities. Pollution is an example: capitalism itself (the private ownership of the means of production) has no mechanism that could deal with it.

It absolutely has a mechanism - property damage

the private ownership of the means of production

Is there any reason you're using marxist terminology?

Pollution is nothing more than a negative externality.

People have measurably shorter lifespans due to coal emissions. We aren’t doing anything about that, so why do you think property will be treated any differently?

Property damage is a consequence, not a method of prevention? The damage won't necessarily happen at the place of origination.

I'm not sure why you say it's Marxist terminology. It's more or less what Wikipedia uses. Is there another definition that you'd prefer?

What's your argument? You've so far told mecapitalism leads to terrible things happening in the name of growth unless there are laws against it, which there are, as 'capitalism exists inside a framework of laws'. Your own argument informs us that capitalism does not automatically mean environmental damage will occur.


> That explains the sparkling environmental record of the USSR and China!

If you assume that capitalism requires unchecked growth harmful to the environment, it doesn't follow that some specific alternatives to capitalism are automatically healthy for the environment. The only conclusion you can draw (if the initial proposition is true) is that if there is a healthy alternative, it's not capitalism.

By the way, some people believe China is currently practicing a form of "state capitalism" (regardless of what they call it, which by the way seems to be "socialist market economy").

Things get overcomplicated when we start using capital “C” words like Communism/Capitalism.

The basics are enough: unchecked greed is bad, regardless of the society / system of capital allocation and thought.

Whenever people talk about 'capitalism' like this it's usually a communist dog whistle. Otherwise they would talk about specific issues, not "the system is making us do it maaan".

So you are the one assuming that after the end of capitalism only communism is possible...

I disagree. One could change the capitalist model to account and be liable for all externalities and to tax/penalize those firms/countries who refuse to.

Right. Something along those lines is what we should be striving for.

Exactly this: we are divorced from nature.

I remember as a kid that going camping was considered an "escape from reality", which made no sense to me because of course Nature is reality and our cities are the artificial "escape".

Geoff Lawton has a quote, "You can solve all the world's problems in a garden."

It's pretty literal: food, recycling poop and pee, medicine, building materials, not to mention the peace and happiness you have caring for other living things and accepting gratefully their care of you.

It is fun and easy!

- - - -

For practical advice on what to do I recommend Toby Hemenway's videos in re: Permaculture


Especially "How Permaculture Can Save Humanity and the Planet – But Not Civilization" and the sequel "Redesigning Civilization with Permaculture".

Permaculture is a school of applied ecology (the word itself is a portmanteau of PERMAnent agriCULTURE) that has adherents and practitioners world-wide. It's not the only form of regenerative agriculture either.

See also https://www.greenwave.org/our-work Oceanic 3D farms! And now they are building reefs?

For this purpose, I think one doesn't need psychedelics, nor religion, nor to consider the situation slipping away from us a miracle.

You just need to go out to nature or a park, on a nice day, and realize you really want things like birds and (if you still have them) butterflies. And food, and air, and clean water, and not being underwater, and not having large swaths of continents be broiled to uninhabitable.

I really liked this essay:


And the author gets to a similar point:

” And so I come to this point, and I ask myself: what, at this moment in history, would not be a waste of my time? And I arrive at five tentative answers.


Four: Insisting that nature has a value beyond utility. And telling everyone. Remember that you are one lifeform among many and understand that everything has intrinsic value. If you want to call this ‘ecocentrism’ or ‘deep ecology’, do it. If you want to call it something else, do that. If you want to look to tribal societies for your inspiration, do it. If that seems too gooey, just look up into the sky. Sit on the grass, and touch a tree trunk, walk into the hills, dig the garden, look at what you find in the soil, marvel at what the hell this thing called life could possibly be. Value it for what it is, try to understand what it is, and have nothing but pity or contempt for people who tell you that its only value is in what they can extract from it.”

The solution to this is a culture that regularly participated in mushrooms or DMT.

I mean that seriously. It’s a profound awakening to love and beauty we are surrounded by.

Ayahuasca is almost an alien-like technology.


Every "epiphany" that someone has told me they had while on psychedelics has been something that easily could have been come up with a bit of quite time and thought.

I have never heard a single story that blew me away or offered anything but mundane "insights" that easily could be gotten other ways.

Its time for the "psychedelics" people to come clean and just admit they are simply getting high.

Have you seen any of the studies where psychedelics are able to resolve conditions like anxiety and depression that are resistant to other treatments? When a person goes through that kind of epiphany, it may sound insipid in words -- and thus not blow you away or sound like mundane "insights" -- but insights don't always have to be verbalizable. "Life is miraculous" sounds pretty obvious, but there are certainly times where it's more "in your face" than others.

I was talking about these "grand revelations" people claim to get. Medical use is an entirely different thing.

Your second half just reinforces my original point. Its an "experience" ie just getting high.

That's a profoundly cynical view on experiencing, well, anything really. That's like saying couples in love should just wake up to the fact that an experience of love has zero nuance and can be summed up with a single word.

My point is no one is going to cure cancer or solve global issues because of psychedelics.

I have no issues with experiencing things. I just don't like that people try to sell it like it is anything more than that.

They are profound to the experiencer precisely because they are experienced. They are seen and felt in an entirely absorbing manner.

Have you had a psychedelic experience?

I agree with you that the world is precious. I also agree with someone else in this comments section that quotes someone saying the world and the life within is precious regardless of what we can extract from it.

However, this puzzles me:

> Psychedelics seem like one promising avenue. Perhaps they will help give us the inspiration to fill in this tragic blindspot.

Why? What do psychedelics have to do with anything? I'm not religious and I'm not about to try psychedelics either, and still I'm filled with awe at the world and want nature to continue existing. I find a lot of natural places breathtaking. I stare at a starry night's sky -- something increasingly difficult because of light pollution -- and I'm awed at the vastness and beauty of the cosmos. It's hard to describe the feeling, but anyone who's felt it knows what I'm talking about.

I still don't believe in any gods or need any kind of psychedelics.

Certain psychedelics can and do have a profoundly life-changing effect on people, which can be a positive, affirming experience in an appropriate/safe context. It is essentially impossible to describe their effects in any meaningful way, but the most succinct explanation might be something like "spiritual awakening", which is probably unfathomable. Many of the ancient world religions describe some sort of mysterious plant or concoction that is integral to ritual/rite/worship, but over time these religions or their practices have gone extinct, underground, or been co-opted or replaced. It is no longer a fringe opinion that many of our ancestors were engaged in some form of "mind expansion" based on entheogenic substances/mixtures discovered in nature; to this day there are shamans who practice millenia-old divination with the assistance of medicinal plants (they have a worldview too, which is probably quite different from yours). Terrence McKenna has hypothesized that the very emergence of language (as a precursor to civilization) was a result of novel neural stimulation exacted by these substances; it is, at least, without question that the class of drugs we call "psychedelics" make people think and feel in ways they've never before imagined. We have this notion of "bad drugs" vs. "good drugs". And we have a whole pharmacopeia of government-approved drugs to alter our emotional state (anti-depressant, anti-anxiety, anti-psychotic), so we've decided it's ok to administer drugs to alter emotions. We are now, finally, entering an era of renewed exploration in the previously-demonized "psychedelic drugs" in therapeutic contexts. Why? Because these substances can elicit profound changes in the mental state of their users. They are extremely powerful medicines that facilitate unique mental processes at low doses. Why do we find these substances throughout nature? By pure coincidence? Maybe. Or maybe our own evolution is somehow tied to them (all evolution is tied together, right?). At the very least, they are incredibly interesting from any perspective (scientific, spiritual, historical, social, legal). Psychedelics are perhaps the most interesting substances on the planet.

That is an excellent summary, and I _highly_ recommend everyone go read Michael Pollan's "How to Change Your Mind". I actually recommend the audiobook, as it is read by Pollan himself.

> I'm not about to try psychedelics either, and still I'm filled with awe at the world

Wonderful! Psychedelics may not be relevant to your path.

For some, "magic" mushrooms (for example) a first glimpse, or a reminder, that this place is "magical" in a way that most of us curiously overlook constantly. That epiphany can have a lasting effect on a person.

That's a central thesis of Dawkin's Unweaving the Rainbow. Understanding that a rainbow is caused by the prismatic effect of water droplets in the air makes it more miraculous, not less.

I think the modern, post-religious intellectual discourse has not even space for metaphysics. Anything in this direction is considered mumbo jumbo. :-) Materialism probably hasn't reached its peak yet.

The history of metaphysics is people denying that they're doing metaphysics. Materialism and scientific realism in science and various forms of Platonism and structuralism in mathematics are just too prevalent for people to even notice them at this point.

Can't agree strongly enough. Even with meditation, where the whole point is (in a sense) to wake up to one's entire field of experience, people are generally unwilling to dig under their own metaphysical layers. They write this off as "oh, I don't do metaphysics." Yes, you do; you're just unwilling to face it.

I updated my post above with a link to a first draft of a site where I go into a little more detail.

I'm not sure from what you wrote that we have the same definition of metaphysics. I'm referring to a specific branch of mainstream academic philosophy. [1]

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metaphysics

I think we do. "Metaphysics" refers to both the branch of philosophy as well as any particular system of metaphysical beliefs. We all subconsciously (and sometimes consciously) carry around a metaphysics in the latter sense.

Precisely :)

I think there is actually a quite simple, coherent framework for such a thing: probability theory. You could say highly improbable is a more scientific synonym for miraculous.

I don't think the problem is that people are unaware per se of the miraculousness/improbability of life, but rather that said awareness is deeply frightening and most people would prefer to sublimate it. The fact that we've all already cheated the infinite oblivion of never existing is incredibly lucky (to non-pessimists), but deeply meditating on this fact is psychologically similar to having a near death experience. So we narrativize to reassure ourselves that our existence isn't just dumb luck, in any manner of ways, both mystical and pseudo scientific: our lives are preordained by God, or by a purely deterministic set of physical laws, or by the operators of our universal simulation, or by the anthropic principle.

All of these belief systems are roughly analogous to saying "Everything happens for a reason", which is something you hear even intelligent people parrot in times of distress. But as Quentin Meillassoux argues in "After Finitude", the only truly universal law of metaphysics is in fact the negation of that platitude: "Things could be as they are, or they could be otherwise."

There are some teachers who have actually figured out what needs to happen, but everyone's identity will backlash hard against it: https://www.youtube.com/user/ActualizedOrg/videos

What would our behavior look like if everyone realized that the point of their life was to work to improve the level and quality of their awareness and consciousness to the point that they also realize the point of their life is to become infinitely loving and utterly selfless? (The hard part is that everything you think you are has to die, you can see why dogmatic/skeptic will resist)

It's pretty, but your post in a nutshell: We are too full of ourselves to admit the transcendental beauty and value of our world soooo...drugs.


You should completely dissociate psychedelics from the concept you have of ”drugs”.

> Until we wake up to this fact

That is not really the case here. I woke up already long ago, but there is no way I can stop the idiots. Only governments can take action by law, not me.

France and Germany will not allow for Facebooks' Libra coin. It shows how fast they can act if their economy is at stake. But for decades already they allow pesticides for agriculture. They could and should know about allowing for mass extermination of entire insect species. So tell me what I can or should do if they let this sick economy prevail?

Germany managed to outlaw glyphosate. That's the government reacting to pressure from voters (especially the massive gains of the Green party).

That's an example of where democracy works because the voters are educated and care about important issues. In countries that are full of uneducated idiots, it doesn't work so well and glyphosphate isn't banned.

> this world is precious. I would even go so far as to say miraculous.

Here is an attempt at a framework to think about this: we have no proof that life exists anywhere else in the Universe. There is a possibility that life itself arose only once and that we are the only intelligent beings around. We have a sort of grand astronomical duty to not fuck it up and expand to the stars and keep the fire going.

That's what I'm saying man this behavior is just beyond selfish. And we are leaving nothing for the next generations to use in terms of raw materials in order to help us become a space-faring species. Society is perverted to the core.

There's a fun catch here though. Earth is going to face a natural destruction sooner or later. Be it by a gamma ray burst, a super-volcanic eruption, an asteroid impact, or any of other other practically infinite number of ways it can happen, has happened (multiple times), and will happen again soon or later. So we're all effectively living on borrowed time. You can't create a permanently sustainable Earth in a beautiful equilibrium because that's not how this universe works. It loves to throw a spanner in the works, over and over. And so the point of this is that it's only by racing against an unknown clock that one can hope to actually sustain humanity.

Consequently, our rapid development which is undoubtedly causing harm to Earth is likely also, equally without doubt, the very thing that may ultimately enable humanity to survive in the longrun. We already have all the resources we need to become a space faring civilization, except for one - public will. People of course want it, but also simultaneously think space is a fantasy, much like at one time crossing the ocean was seen as. And so it's put on the side burner while we focus on much more pressing matters, like what some politician or celebrity said on Twitter. If a tenth of the energy we spend on social media or trying to shove ads at each other was focused on space, we'd already have set foot on Mars.

Cataclysmic events occur on geological timescales. Historically no species survives more than some thousands or perhaps millions of years, timescales short enough to fit between unavoidable extinction events.

Humanity is currently on a path to destroy the earth's capability to sustain us, on a timescale that is laughably small compared to geological timescales.

If we behaved better, humanity could conceivably exist for hundreds of thousands, or millions of years without being obliterated by an asteroid or colossal volcanic eruption(s).

At the rate we're going, we won't last another few hundred years before we create an environment so toxic and unlivable that we extinguish ourselves.

Luckily a few rich crap heads will get even richer before that happens, bless their cotton socks, so it will all have been worth it.

Even with today's technology there's no real path to making earth literally inhospitable within the foreseeable future, sans an intentional act like somebody exploding a salted nuke in the atmosphere. But we can, and probably will, certainly make it less hospitable. More importantly though technology will continue to improve and, for events that happen on a slow time scale, we have a good chance of helping to mitigate the most catastrophic of effects. Even in the worst case though where we somehow remain stuck with 2020 tech for centuries, there's no species ending level scenario on the books.

The problem, by contrast, with the natural disasters is not only their effect but how incredibly rapid it happens. For instance we nearly caused a very gradual catastrophe with CFCs by gradually depleting the ozone layer over many decades. Something similar has been suggested as the cause for the Ordovician extinction. Except there what caused the destruction of the atmospheric layer was a gamma ray burst, and it only would have taken a few seconds. This is even more apparent with things like asteroid impacts. We've had an increasingly large number (or probably more accurately we can now actually 'see' them a bit more accurately) whiz by us at a tiny fraction of the distance to the moon. If a single one of these made impact you're looking at the equivalent of millions of WW2 scale nuclear weapons going off, at once. And of course it's not just the immediate impact, but then the massive cooling and darkening of Earth that would follow. If this happened over decades to centuries we could probably survive through technological means, but we wouldn't have that luxury. It would happen over a matter of seconds, and then days as the fallout embraced the Earth with its tainted touch.

That doesn't mean we aren't grossly misappropriating and wasting our resources and reducing our chances of achieving long-term civilization.

I agree with the sentiment. But I wouldn't use the term "miraculous" because that generally comes with the baggage of a creator.

I'd rather say that ~random variation plus selection is gobsmackingly impressive. But the results aren't as perfect as you might expect stuff that's designed and created to be. They're amazing, but not elegant.

> This apparently isn't a popular opinion, but: this world is precious. I would even go so far as to say miraculous. Until we wake up to this fact, we will continue to ennui ourselves and this world into oblivion.

I agree. I would argue the majority of people in developed countries share this view. However, it should be pointed out that it's also a luxury to have this view. If you're currently in, come from, or ever visited a developing country; you'd realize that for many other people a major primary concern is to get enough income for basic needs. They just don't have the bandwidth to fully appreciate the world as we do.

Of course it's miraculous. We're on this marble spinning around hosting life. There's nothing else like us that we know about. Nothing. For all intents and purposes, we're alone. Looking around the immediate universe (our galaxy), there may be life on other planets in the galaxy. But. If we keep going the course we're going, it is far more likely that we'll extinct ourselves before we develop the technology to find out if there is life out there and long before we'll find out how to reach a potential new home.

There was an entire aeon of life that produced so much waste that all of the organisms drowned in their own excrement, which happened to be oxygen. Fortunately for us now.

It might be that the purpose of humans, mammals, multicellular organisms, whatever.....in the holistic sense, is no greater than theirs.

I agree the world is precious, but the idea that you need to take psychedelics to realize this is completely absurd.

Religion certainly isn't going to help anyone appreciate nature. American Christians in particular think God gave the world to them to do whatever they want, even if that means driving around gas-guzzling SUVs and polluting as much as they want. Most other religions don't have a very good track record with environmentalism either.

Modern science, however, tells us exactly why we're having problems, and what things are likely to look like if they keep going this way. What more do you need for inspiration, other than "if you don't make some big changes, you're going to have massive flooding of port cities, and a lot more extreme weather, storms, desertification, etc., which will cause shortages of freshwater and food." If that isn't enough inspiration, I don't know what is. The problem is that too many people simply don't believe this, just like there's people who think vaccines cause autism.

Then again, since I'm a believer in science and I'm not religious, I can't speak for people who are, so maybe you're onto something with the psychedelics thing. Perhaps we should try a scientific study, giving religious anti-environment people psychedelics and seeing if it makes them appreciate nature more.

This study did not focus on religious people in particular, but there is at least some preliminary evidence (in addition to loads of anecdotal evidence) for psychedelics increasing appreciation for nature: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28631526

> we will continue to ennui ourselves...

I’m trying to recall which post from yesterday used this word which we probably both read.

But FYI I believe the word is merely a noun; one cannot ennui oneself.

Thanks. It turns out it can be used as a verb:

- (verb, transitive) To make bored or listless; to weary.

But it doesn't quite capture what I mean. It's not merely that we're boring ourselves by some particular activity, but by deciding that reality itself is boring.

I don't need psychedelics or religious fervor to realise and appreciate how extraordinary the likelyhood of our existence is though ^^.

In the modern world, the paramount desire of society is to grow the capitalist economy. For this purpose we are pressured to excel at things that will make this economy grow, and relegate everything else to a secondary status. That's why society views taking care of nature as non important. Many companies, such as oil and mining companies, are directly interested in destroying as much of earth as possible, just for the sake of making an extra buck. We need to create a new economy where these companies and others are directly controlled to produce only the minimum necessary in order to maintain what remains of this planet.

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