The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Accepting and Using Climate Change

Odin with the ravens Thought and Memory

A couple days ago I was thinking about the problem of surveillance states and I realized, “This problem is likely to become less of one because of climate change.”

And I started thinking about all the opportunities and good things climate change makes possible.

My grieving was done.

My pre-grieving, I suppose.

I see grieving for climate change and ecological collapse everywhere. Informed people who have done their homework know it’s going to be bad, really bad, and that they and those they care about are going to be hit by it. For a lot of people it rises to the level of trauma, even though most of it hasn’t happened yet. It’s like the moment you really know you’re going to die or that something else horrible WILL happen. You can get caught on it, and traumatized by something which isn’t here yet.

But then there’s the point at which you hit acceptance.

Alcoholics Anonymous has a prayer, ““God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

But acceptance doesn’t mean resignation. It doesn’t mean “oh, nothing can be done.” If I know there’s going to be a famine I can stock up food. If I know I’m going to die, I can write a will and say my goodbyes. If I know  here is going to be climate change I can take that into account in my actions going forward.

Knowing something is going to happen, and that it can’t, or won’t, be stopped is freeing and empowering. I am now able to stop worrying about the fact that it is going to happen, and plan for it.

When I was young I used to read a lot of adventure novels. One of the criticisms of such fiction is that the protagonist’s seem to just shrug off bad events: They aren’t effected much emotionally. But what they do do is take those events into consideration in their plans and actions.

Adventure fiction thinking is a pretty good way to live your life, actually, if you can pull it off. What is, is. What will be, will be, but you can adapt to it.

Here’s the truth about climate change: It’s going to suck more ass than anything since the Black Death. That’s a lot of ass.

But it’s also an opportunity. You want change? You don’t like society today?

I don’t. I mean, I fought like the dickens to avoid climate change because the price of this change is too high. Like billions of dead too high.

But we lost. It’s happening.

And horrible as it is, it’s still an opportunity. The good will go away, but so will a lot of the bad.

The society created after the Black Death was, in many ways, much better than the one that came before.

That’s our challenge. There will be real breakdowns in how we run our society. The challenge is to replace with them with something better.

Some things better.

And because you’ve accepted the truth of climate change and that it isn’t going to be stopped, you have an advantage over the deniers. Those who act in alignment with what IS and what will be are always stronger, more nimble and more capable than those running around in denial.

Climate change is coming. It’s going to suck horribly.

How are you going to use it to make your life and everyone else’s lives better?

(See also, The Philosophy of Decline and Collapse.)

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Assange Was Right All Along


Toward a Land Ethic


  1. Eric Anderson

    I’m going to use it as an opportunity to teach my son to have, what Aldo Leopold called, a “land ethic.”

  2. Adam Eran

    Mark Blyth’s “History of How We Got Here” ( says when some catastrophe becomes too difficult to ignore (e.g. climate means Miami no longer has drinking water) then solutions are forthcoming. Probably too late to avoid many millions of deaths, but still something…

  3. I’m not so sure. As a catalyst for change, yes, but… so’s Donald Trump.

    I’ve long thought that survival may become dependent upon moving into environmentally controlled habitats, be they Moonbases, Mars Bitches, orbital or floating habitats, caves of steel. The operative of course is “Control”, I’m not sure there’s any more fertile hotbed for a police state than a sealed, environmentally controlled habitat.


    Probably too late to avoid many millions of deaths, but still something…

    Millions? Try billions.

    Eric, funny you should mention Aldo Leopold. I’ve been reading him the past month and many times I thought of possibly dropping a quote here from A Sand County Almanac.

    It’s never too late.

    One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to laymen. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise.

    If he was alive today, he’d probably be suicidal. He presaged all of this as did a handful of other sage noble men and women.

  5. nihil obstet

    As individuals acting alone, we can’t take advantage of the opportunities for positive social change. We can only position ourselves to win the competition against our compatriots, trusting in the invisible hand of the disruptive market. We need to build the social relationships and organizations that will support a better society. And always, of course, we must keep the vision of what a better society is.

  6. John

    Climate chaos will take away much of what we have created in the material world since the industrial revolution. But then I think about life in the Axial Age, the 8th thru 3rd centuries BCE. That would have been an exciting time to have been alive if one just thinks about the ideas that arose about human life during that period. How could that have happened without the great industrial Squander? No internet, no autos, no teeveee, no radio, no surveillance tech, no nothing.
    I do not wish for the suffering that will get us there…but life will go on.

  7. Eric Anderson
    Love him. He’s been my touchstone for years. My heroes?

    Leopold, Darwin, Thoreau, Muir, Everett Ruess, Gifford Pinchot, Wendell Berry, Ed Abbey, EO Wilson, Rachel Carson, Bob Marshall, and Francis of Assisi to name a few.

    I see Ian’s point. And I damn well respect it, too.
    But, as my Shun the climate Change Deniers post amply demonstrated, I’m not as far along the emotional acceptance continuum. A simmering rage continues to motivate me to fight to my last breath with every meager weapon at my disposal. But, at the same time, it doesn’t so consume me that I’m not often moved to tears by the beauty of the plants, animals, and geography of this world I’m so blessed to inhabit.

    “If you don’t know where you are, you don’t know who you are.”
    — Wendell Berry

    I’ll be forever grateful for the fact that, by some turn of chance, I got lucky enough to know who I am.

    My atoms and soul are of my place. Hell is transience …

  8. Anthony Cooper

    Since my talents seem to be in tech, I’ve been thinking about which parts could be saved and which parts are worth saving. Is the net worth saving? Are computers?

  9. I’m sure that at some point in prehistory mankind was saying, “Oh man, the planet is going to warm up, and these ice caps are going to melt clear up into Canada, and sea level is going to rise so high that we can no longer walk from China to America, and we are all going to die.”

    Sure enough all of that happened, except the part about all of us dying. It actually turned out pretty good. “Life as we know it” is not always the best possible state of being.

  10. different clue

    @Anthony Cooper,

    “The” net may not be savable. Smaller nets in various sealed-off regions may be savable. It could be worth trying. I don’t know enough to know how.

    Are individual computers worth saving? I should think so, together with their own stand-alone storage capacity, so as to make every possible best use of them before they finally die. Perhaps hobby-groups of computer-fixers could organize to buy and stockpile all the replacement parts needed to keep various computers alive for a while. Perhaps efforts should be made to revive earlier, more primitive and robust types of computers.

    What about the best of the information currently stored there-in/ there-on? That should be saved in some analog fashion, for when the net and all the computers are dead. Perhaps those tech persons who wish to be present day versions of the Irish Monks saving manuscript-loads of knowledge and information through the Dark Ages and the Viking Ages could set up their own desktop publishing/printing systems for printing ” the best of the Web” onto acid-free hemp-or-otherwise paper for several centuries of storage.

    Perhaps others could try loading their own choices for “best of the webnet” onto microfilm and microfiche and other such analog miniaturization-of-text-and-illustration technologies for retrieval and use when the wires and chips are all dead.

  11. different clue

    Global warming accepters who are living in no-future areas should find a way to sell their land, houses, bussinesses, etc. to global warming deniers who are looking for contrarian-investment opportunities. Such accepters could then group together in various possible-future areas and build up their mutual social survival in those places.

    Perhaps the “acceptance zones” could become big enough and organized enough in an orderly way to be able to accept some productive and constructive ” acceptance refugees” from the denial zones to come live in the acceptance zones. In case the acceptance zones turn out to be the survival zones.

  12. highrpm

    regardless of what we think about the bigger picture, the big mission field, each can/ should still try to reduce individual carbon and pollution footprints. reduce travel. shared housing since 2004. quit the car in 2010. use panniers and backpack for shopping — try not to use store supplied plastic bags. and a variety of incidentals. (meanwhile, the inner city neighborhood i call home — not by choice, rather by low income necessity — is populated by many cars, both streets and yards, cig butts litter pervasive, the obese striving poor driving everywhere at all hours; on daily walks provide opportunity to gather up 24/ 32 oz soft drink throwouts, plastic bottles, aluminum cans and empty liquor bottles, while leaving the fast food wrappers and waste on the ground. the battleground does the mind good.) (wonder if the clintons and obamas have first or second homes in the inner city? or if they share housing. and what is their travel environmental load? oh, that’s right, high priests are above reproach.)

  13. Peter

    Eric,, I used to admire Rachel Carson but her alarmist claims about DDT had horrible if unintended consequences. All of her many claims about DDT were debunked even by the EPA.
    The consequence of her poor quality science, omissions of facts and hysterical tone has led to the unnecessary death of tens of millions of people around the globe most of them children. Bill Clinton demanded Mexico stop DDT use to get NAFTA and malaria cases skyrocketed there.
    Fortunately the worldwide ban of DDT wanted by the UN was defeated and poor countries can get aid for its use. Malaria is on the decline again as it was before the stupid best seller Silent Spring created a contagious hysteria and doomed millions to suffering and death.
    Informed historians will remember Carson for two things. Lighting the fuse that set off the DDT hysteria that caused the unnecessary deaths of millions and .starting the alarmist environmental movement that now seeks to destroy modern civilization and kill off most of human population to supposedly save the planet.

  14. Stirling S Newberry

    1. Imagine you are a Native America in 1491. You are going to get hit with every plague know to mankind. At once. Sidenote: between 1100 and 1492 was better because the Norse did not bring any plagues that the natives could not adapt to. The die-off rate is 90%. That is ass.

    2. It is not Biology it is Economics. Economics is what says you own a chunk of beach. Given the rate of dying off of Economics, it is about 3%. 7.5 EE 9 is about 200 Mil and change. The American Civil War or The Second Thirty Year War (WWI/WWII) Global.

    3. It gets worse if we have a plague – that tops out at 25%. We might do it because Economics does not like research cures when palliatives are so much more profitable. (It is the same reason the mattresses cost so much.) This is why people like government after the fact. Governments tell Capitalists that they have to spend for the public good. The is no law of economics that tells the capitalists to do this.

    4. Anyone that worships E.O. Wilson is a moron. News flash: humans are not bees.

  15. Temporarily Sane

    How are you going to use it to make your life and everyone else’s lives better?

    This is the same kind of neoliberal individualist it’s all about YOU making “your and everyone else’s life better” bullshit propagated by self-help hucksters and Silicon Valley libertarians. It’s particularly idiotic when it comes to climate change. The embedded presupposition suggests that every person on earth is equally responsible for pumping CO2 into the atmosphere (assuming for a moment climate change is a human caused phenomenon, which hasn’t been definitively proven).

    So a subsistence farmer and his family in Kenya or a poor family in North America are on the same level as Jeff Bezos, a beltway lobbyist for Raytheon (the US military emits more greenhouse gases than any other organization on earth) when it comes to climate change responsibility?

    Government leaders and elected representatives who have the power to enact legislation that curtails the detrimental activities of the corporations that power global capitalism and the wealthy people who run and invest in those corporations are no more responsible for climate change than a guy who makes his living running a website or a taxi cab driver?

    If all it takes to change the world is vapid feelgood platitudes about individuals “making the world a better place” and “crisis as opportunity” that would be wonderful. But it doesn’t work. It simply erases the reality of who has power and who doesn’t…and it lets the Davos crowd, the military and rest of the rest of the ruling class hucksters diffuse their responsibility by claiming false equivalence and claiming “we’re all in this together.”

    I’ve read your essays, Welsh, and I know you’re not a stupid man. That’s why I find it difficult to believe that you seriously believe spouting content-free self-help platitudes encouraging people to “make everyone’s life better” has transformational potential.

  16. Imagine you are a Native American in 1491. Yes, do, please …

    Here’s a simple equation for all you know-it-all deniers and your disdain for and rejection of readily apparent first-hand knowledge: the only thing that matters, is of consequence, is my, my children’s and my grandchildren’s survival. Your survival is of no consequence, does not matter.

    I am not alone.

  17. Ian Welsh

    Some of the plains Indians did quite well for hundreds of years. But yes, there have been things worse than the Black Death for certain groups.

    Most of those groups don’t even exist any more.


    My team and I are in the process of developing a way to make use of those billions of dead bodies. If we don’t, they will become a major health hazard and even maybe spawn a plague that kills billions more. We are considering transforming them into crackers and rolls. Or, finding a sustainable way to turn them into fertilizer. So what if we attain wealth greater that exceeds Donald Trump’s net worth in the process, at least we’ll be doing our part for our fellow humans and the rest of the living planet. Catastrophe equals opportunity. Accept it. Embrace it. Learn to love it. It’s our reality.


    …. the only thing that matters, is of consequence, is my, my children’s and my grandchildren’s survival. Your survival is of no consequence, does not matter….

    Nice. Are you training them on how to dismantle nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons and dispose of irradiated material safely and effectively? If not, they will be nothing more than radioactive sponges and that implies.

    The only way any semblance of human survives is via its creation, AI. AI can survive the effects of climate change and AI can develop sufficiently to travel throughout the solar system and the galaxy and beyond to propagate on other planets and moons.

  20. Ché Pasa

    ‘The Sand County Almanac.” There was a copy in our house when I was growing up, and I remember trying to read it and being befuddled by it because I had no frame of reference to understand it in the midst of suburban materialist ‘progress.’ There was also a thick green copy of “Atlas Shrugged” and I didn’t understand that, either.

    Nevertheless, I planted an acorn in our front yard, an acorn I’d brought down from the scrub and oak forested hillside a few hundred yards beyond our house, and in time an oak grew somewhat gnarled and twisted from that acorn. It was, so far as I can recall, the only oak growing in our neighborhood— a neighborhood built on the site of a Gabrieleño village that had been established where it was many centuries before because of the abundant oaks and the acorns they produced and the seasonal creek that flowed down from the hills.

    By the time I lived there all the oaks had been cut down and burned as ‘trash trees.’ They were temporarily replaced with orange groves — Southern California, after all — that were in turn cut down, rooted out and burned to be replaced with miles and miles of suburban post-war housing.

    The houses have lasted longer than the orange groves, but not as long, not nearly as long as the oaks had lasted. The stands of oaks that persisted on the hillsides nearby may all be gone now, too, I’m not sure, though there must be a few undeveloped hillsides left. The oak that grew from the acorn I planted so many years ago was cut down last year, at least from what I can tell from the Google street view. In its place, another tree was planted.

    So the cycles continue. Perhaps not ideally, but persistently.


    Nice to know the Dems are getting so tough on Climate Change. So much so, they hardly devoted any time to it in the most recent debate no one watched because everyone was so busy watching the coverage of the impeachment proceedings that will not result in Trump being impeached. Talk about preaching hope and then dashing said hope, that will be the result of these impeachment proceedings. In the meantime, the living planet is in its death throes.


    One way you can help is to promote and/or vote for Donald Trump in 2020. Trump’s EPA has repeatedly, as a matter of policy, rejected the warnings of outside experts on climate change while concomitantly rolling back rolling back environmental regulations meant to curb its effects. Trump will depopulate America and the planet much quicker than any Dem would or could. Exposure to toxic waste is one such way to depopulate. One of so many.

  23. ponderer

    I don’t expect anything to change, especially not where I live. I applaud the active imaginations that seem to abound here but the expectations seem to be out of line with any reasonable scenarios I can come up with. Over a long time period there will be migrations as things get worse, but flyover country is pretty empty anyway.

  24. realitychecker

    Invest in hand fans.

  25. anon y'mouse

    Temporarily Sane–i think you have entirely misread the post.

    the only time an individual’s efforts can truly be thought of as “saving the world” is if those efforts can help save the individuals around them. in the many crises that climate change will bring, it may come down to whether your neighbor has had the foresight to stock enough water supplies that saves you or permits you to live another day.

    he is envisioning a world where “the system” has broken down so utterly that individual efforts can make a difference, even if small and temporary.

    the system as it is, is broken enough to where even millions of us who would rather make the collective efforts to save everyone can’t do it precisely because of the people you mention, who truly are in control. Ian is saying “those people and their desire for inactivity and exacerbation of the problems have won. now what do we do?”

    it is a logical answer to say “prepare for the worst and try to help those around you if possible”. it isn’t “individualism” but realism. we aren’t having any luck changing a system that has preached for 30 years that all we need is to convince everyone to install the right lightbulbs and refuse a sack at checkout. in that way, you are correct to point out that “individualism” is part of the problem. our society, such as it is, seems unable to correct itself or come to any kind of solution partially because of that philosphy.

    when push comes to shove and you are forced into the kinds of chaos that Ian believes is coming, all you can do is say “i will try my best”. there are no other kinds of guarantees in a disaster zone.

  26. realitychecker

    Seems worth considering the irony that tribalism prevailed among humans until the place got crowded, then melting together did not work out (that failure aided, abetted, and promoted by deliberate divide and conquer strategies), so now we have to go back to tribalism. And jungle rules?

    Round trip ticket.

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