Only Love Remains: Dancing at the Edge of Extinction
a book by Guy McPherson
(our site's book review)
The Amazon blurb says that The science is clear: Homo sapiens teeters on the brink of extinction. Industrial civilization is an omnicidal heat engine, yet terminating civilization heats the planet even faster in an outcome termed the McPherson Paradox. Only Love Remains: Dancing on the Edge of Extinction describes a way forward in light of our terminal diagnosis. In this book, professor emeritus of conservation biology Guy McPherson describes how we can proceed with urgency in the face of habitat loss for our species. While describing the evidence underlying human extinction within a few years, McPherson also provides an urgent and reasoned response to this prognosis.
Dancing at the Edge of Extinction—the cliff edge is much closer than we ever thought
"Based on substantial evidence, our own species is headed into the abyss of extinction far sooner than most people realize," says McPherson. "Consider, for example, the 200 or so species being driven to extinction every day, the fouling of the air, the pollution of the waters, the utter destruction of the soil . . . Industrial civilization is a heat engine driving us to extinction. Turning off industrial civilization, or even reducing industrial activity by a relatively minor amount, causes loss of habitat for humans even faster than keeping industrial civilization running. Thus, the Catch-22 that has come to be known as the McPherson Paradox: With respect to industrial civilization, we are damned if we do, and we are damned if we don’t. . . . An ice-free Arctic, which appears imminent in the very near future, seems likely to trigger the 50-Gt burst of methane (CH4) from the relatively shallow sea floor of the Arctic Ocean . . . Such an event would raise global-average temperature beyond the temperature experienced by humans in the past, and almost certainly would cause the demise of civilization. . . . I strongly suspect we are the final humans on Earth. In light of this knowledge, will you live more fully each day?"
As we gaze trembling into the abyss of extinction, we look even closer, and we see the abyss looking back
British philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote in 1950: “After ages during which the earth produced harmless trilobites and butterflies, evolution progressed to the point at which it generated Neros, Genghis Khans, and Hitlers. This, however, is a passing nightmare; in time the earth will become again incapable of supporting life, and peace will return.”
After ages during which the earth produced harmless trilobites and butterflies . . .
Evolution progressed to the point at which it generated Neros, Genghis Khans, and Hitlers. This, however, is a passing nightmare; in time the earth will become again incapable of supporting life, and peace will return
Industrialized human civilization has become a heat engine that has driven the average temperature of Earth to the present reading, which is higher than has ever been experienced by humanity during our 30,000 years of civilization. Rather than a gradual arithmetic increase, this heat engine will exponentially drive the average global temperature to a level not experienced on Earth for two billion years. As the north polar ice and the permafrost on surrounding shorelines melts, the methane stored in the ice is being mercilessly released into the atmosphere. As the shallow floor of the ice-less Arctic Ocean warms up, an abrupt explosive burst of up to 50 billion tons of methane is highly likely. Methane is 100 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. The sudden drastic rise in temperature from all this greenhouse gas will destroy the ability of human civilization to produce and store the grains necessary for survival.
Methane is 100 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas, so tell your cows to stop breaking wind!
People have their heads up their butts and no longer believe in science, because of the Right's decades-long misinformation and propaganda campaigns, sponsored by Big Oil. McPherson says 'the typical American reader is woefully ignorant and sufficiently stupid to believe his or her own opinion is superior to any evidence s/he encounters'
McPherson tells us that because we are at the edge of extinction, only love remains—not long-term survival as individuals or as a species. He does not believe that there is anything that can be done today to reverse the damage we have already inflicted on our beautiful planet during the Industrial Age. People, however, have their heads up their butts and no longer believe in science, because of the Right's decades-long misinformation and propaganda campaign, sponsored by Big Oil. McPherson observes that "the typical American reader is woefully ignorant and sufficiently stupid to believe his or her own opinion is superior to any evidence s/he encounters."
They get this way due to the way social media works, where friends' opinions trump the best scientific truths from the best scientific minds on our doomed planet. When Facebook and Google keep reinforcing your current biases by sending you "more of the same" and we all live in a filter bubble, we get dumber, we forget how to do critical thinking, and we look for friends' approval about ideas as opposed to real knowledge from experts. WE HAVE FORGOTTEN HOW TO LEARN!
A filter bubble is a situation in which Internet users encounter only information and opinions that conform to and reinforce their own beliefs, caused by algorithms that personalize each individual’s online experience
Big Oil's egregiously immoral propaganda campaign convincing us to not believe climate disaster predictions have led us fatally astray
If Dr. McPherson and the other scientists he cites are correct, billions of us are going to die, but is it for sure that humanity will become extinct? Maybe. But scientists have tried to predict earthquakes for years, but they've always failed, in spite of having decades of Richter Scale readings as data to learn from. McPherson assuming we all die in a few years is probably pessimistic, since humans have adapted to amazingly challenging and hostile situations in history. Perhaps a few million survive the apocalypse, sader but wiser, or maybe there are a few adapted to high temperatures like those at the Equator that can live through the disaster, and likewise for some crops adapted to Equator conditions. (The Equator passes through 13 countries: Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Sao Tome & Principe, Gabon, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Somalia, Maldives, Indonesia and Kiribati.)
Trump, Denier-in-Chief, says 'Hey, gang—I say let's all take saunas and then roast weenies and marshmallows. It'll be a fantastic, fantastic experience—we'll have a yuge, yuge party!'
"This book describes a way forward in light of our terminal diagnosis. Inspired by a 2016 speaking tour in New Zealand by the author, this book moves beyond the idea of attempting to preserve human life at all costs and into the idea of living in hospice. Our species has never faced a trial such as this one. How shall we live?" (Source: Only Love Remains: Dancing At the Edge of Extinction, Tebssiam, Medium)
McPherson says that since the world is going over a cliff, live here now, or as guru Ram Dass used to say: Be Here Now
"They [millennials] knew, even before meeting me, that my generation had crapped on theirs and then lied about it. They know the lies continue, too. . . . I recommend forsaking hope and fear and, instead, pursuing action. I recommend living as though death is drawing very near . . . while still flossing and brushing. I recommend adventurous radicalism without intentional harm to oneself or others. The short version of my advice is contained within three whispered words: live here now. " (Source: Finding Meanings in Life, Guy McPherson, Weekly Hubris)
Millennials and Post-millennials (Generation Z) knew that older generations (Baby-Boomers and Generation X) had crapped on theirs and then lied about it and they know the lies continue (Big Oil, Trump)
In November 2015, McPherson was interviewed on National Geographic Explorer with host Bill Nye. Andrew Revkin in The New York Times said McPherson was an "apocalyptic ecologist ... who has built something of an 'End of Days' following." Michael Tobis, a climate scientist from the University of Wisconsin, said McPherson "is not the opposite of a denialist. He is a denialist, albeit of a different stripe." David Wallace-Wells writing in The Uninhabitable Earth (2019) called McPherson a "climate Gnostic" and on the "fringe," while climate scientist Michael E. Mann said he was a "doomist cult hero." (Source: Guy McPherson, Wikipedia)
Proclaiming that the end is nigh is one of the main realizations of those who are shocked to realize the extreme and certain nature of what is coming soon— the fire of anthropogenic climate collapse will shock all deniers the most as they realize that it is their ignorant, foolish inactions that caused it
Predicting doomsday based on what he knows just makes sense, but there are unknown variables in the extremely complex planetary system, so McPherson's pessimistic predictions are far from certainties. For instance, the Earth system may try to compensate in some way if it starts overheating, seeking balance and homeostasis—which applies to all living systems, including our biosphere. See also:
McPherson gives us from a couple years to a couple decades—the doomsday clock is ticking: tick, tock, tick, tock
- The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial Is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy
- Losing Earth: A Recent History
- Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?
- This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate
- The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming
- Climate change denial
- The End of Ice: Bearing Witness and Finding Meaning in the Path of Climate Disruption
If our doom was unavoidable, like the dinosaur meteor, that is forgivable, but the fact that we doomed ourselves is unconscionable and unforgivable
Humans are regressing toward pre-Enlightenment thinking that depends upon "authorities" to guide them, rather than reason, logic, and knowledge. So life will be about two things: tyrants and religion. It's almost as though civilization is stuck in reverse and along with that it would seem that human evolution is stuck in reverse. Think about it: brains that cease thinking for themselves and instead let authorities do it for them are unused organs that will degenerate. (In the Middle Ages and Dark Ages, people did little thinking and neither civilization nor evolution progressed one whit.) Thinking takes lots of effort and energy, but replaying tired old religious dogma in one's head takes hardly any energy. Sort of like watching a movie compared to writing a movie or using an app compared to programming an app. Humans are more evolved than apes because they think (or at least they used to—now they just quiver in fear in megachurches). Nonthinking humans are like apes without body hair—not much else is different. There are sayings that point out that if something isn't growing it's dying, and a flowing river stays healthy, while a stagnant pool generates diseases and smells bad. A mind replaying tired old religious dogma in place of thinking and being closed to new experiences and ideas does not flow, grow, or create. It stagnates, degenerates, and is unproductive.
Unfortunately, the 21st century Dark Ages (a.k.a. Dark Ages 2.0) would have been ripe for exploitation by tyrants, demagogues, and psychotics. Of course, climate disaster was unexpected, so now that it is here, this changes everything. This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate.