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

And He Said To Me “We’re all going to die, and heaven knows we deserve to”

That’s what a friend wrote to me when he sent me the story attached to that picture.

“A cleanup is underway as an unquantifiable amount of dead fish washed ashore on several Texas beaches today due to low oxygen levels in the water, according to a Quintana Beach County Park Official.”

Yeah. Now this isn’t just a climate change thing, nor is this the first time it’s happened, but warm water holds less oxygen and also reduces the number of oxygen producing phytoplankton. Red Tides (algal blooms which deplete oxygen) are also made more common by climate change.

So, there are two things to say about this.

First: the probability that all humans will die is low. Not zero or effectively zero though I know some smart people who think that’s true. They argue “the Earth has had this much carbon/heat before and there was life, it’ll suck, but whatever.” Well, yeah, but not while humans were around.

What it really is is about is an assumption that the next equilibrium point (from the one we’ve inhabited for about 10K years) is a livable one, and that we won’t blow thru it and others and settle at one which is not livable, or more accurately, which we cannot adapt to in time to avoid an extinction spiral.

It is also true that the problem is NOT just carbon, it is ecological collapse. Human are apex predators. If we take out the web beneath us, we are the ones most vulnerable.

This is probably true. It is not certainly true.

Second: Just Because Human Life Will Probably Go On, Doesn’t Mean Yours Will. Or, y’know, the life of anybody you care about. Always true, but more true in mass death scenarios. Nor does it mean your life will not really, really, suck.

Well, there’s your Monday cheer for you!

This is a donor supported site, so if you value the writing, please DONATE or SUBSCRIBE.


Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – June 11, 2023


What Made Wagner Useful To Putin & Russia + Notes On Ukraine’s Counteroffensive


  1. Purple Library Guy

    Humans will probably not go extinct. Humans are capable of living in more biomes than practically any other macro-scale life form. Sure, in a lot of them we cheat, but results are what matters. If there’s any other life still around, which seems likely, humans will be eating it and surviving.
    But yeah . . . those may be OTHER humans, not, like, us.

    Mind you, it is true that we are causing a lot of other ecological crises, not just climate change. And those will both have terrible consequences in themselves, and worsen some of the terrible consequences of climate change. But, that’s one of the few areas where feedback loops will be positive. As climate change and things like loss of pollinators and depletion of fish stocks and so on, cause problems that lead to human economic collapse and mass dieback, there will be fewer humans eating less and with a smaller, less destructive economy. Because climate change in particular plays out over a long period now that we’ve gotten it going, this shrinkage of the human footprint will not instantly make things better. But it will make room for some kind of new equilibrium to emerge. If there are suddenly far fewer humans fishing far fewer fish, fish stocks will probably recover at some point despite climate change, and so on. Nature comes back when human presence withdraws.

    As to whether humans DESERVE to die . . . I think we may be overestimating ourselves, in a way. People sometimes talk as though, or outright say, that humans are sort of uniquely evil because of the way we run roughshod over the rest of the ecosystem. But in that respect, we’re just normal. Everything does that when it gets the chance. Cute little sea urchins create “urchin barrens” when there aren’t enough predators keeping them down (which is usually our fault, but that doesn’t change the point). Bacteria in petri dishes multiply until they cover the whole thing and poison most of themselves with their own wastes. Deer on islands with no wolves multiply until they eat everything. Life tries to make more of itself; that’s what everything does. Humans are just uniquely good at it.

    We’re no worse than anything else; unfortunately we need to be better, wiser than everything else because we have the capacity to do damage that other species don’t, and we have not so far managed to be that. It’s unfortunate to say the least, and it’s a failure, but it’s not a unique failure. Life is dominated by the drive for reproduction and increase; we’re just the most dangerous example.

  2. mago

    Monday cheer, yes indeedy
    We’re all so glad we’re not a dead fish on a beach until we’re born as one.

  3. Brooks Sligh

    It will forever remain a stone bummer that climate change seems focused with laser intensity on promoting slime, mosquitos & disease while also annihilating tigers, dolphins, anything with a shred of majesty or charisma.

  4. Joel

    There’s at least two major issues with the temperature changes:

    (1) Rate of temperature increase. There were similar–perhaps greater–spikes going into the Bolling Allerod and coming out of the Younger Dryas. Humans survived both, obviously, but both are often associated with profound changes in how humans lived.

    (2) Temperature average. The earth could end up with higher average yearly temperatures than anytime during the existence of Homo sapiens sapiens. (That won’t end all life on earth, of course. The earth has been much hotter than anything humans can do to it.) The northern latitudes will remain inhabitable, of course. But that means a lot of very disruptive migration.

    So human life won’t end, but it’s going to be a very different planet, and our descendants will be living in very different ways.

  5. Curt Kastens

    Why do you think that the northern latitudes remaining habitable is sufficient to ensure that humans do not go extinct?

  6. Curt Kastens

    The response of western populations to the US led NATO wars agaisnt Russia, China, and Iran demonstrate that the western populations are just complete puppets of their evil double talking leaders. That leads me to believe that it would not be unreasonable to conclude that “WE” deserve the fate that is going to befall us over the next 2 days to 20 years.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén