The Human super-organism eats the earth

Nate Hagen’s 40 minute presentation entitled “Earth vs. Amoeba”. Our current growth-obsessed consumerist culture is likened to a big hungry amoeba, a super-organism that is eating the planet on which it depends.

Earth Day Talk, Stockholm Wisconsin, April 22, 2019

We have many narratives about our culture; -that we are God’s children; that we are clever and industrious and headed to the stars; that we will continue to grow our economy throughout the coming century leading to a world of material abundance for all humans, etc.  All of these stories, among other things – are energy blind. Our society misunderstands energy. This misunderstanding has simple explanations, but massive implications for human futures.

What if we’re part of a different story entirely? One where we members of a social species executing simple optimal foraging algorithms join together with others, and then groups of others (businesses and corporations) towards the pursuit of growth, and that this growth in turn depends on mass/material combinations each of which in turn require energy? We socially self-organize to continue this growth using creative – and even desperate – means? And when we (are able to) do this at 3% per year we roughly double the energy and material size of our endeavor every 25 years or so.  Under such a narrative, a college student today will see the size and scale of the human enterprise quadruple in their lifetime.  Would this be a good thing? A bad thing? What would be the impacts if it were to happen? Or if it couldn’t happen? Could we alter the momentum of this ‘entity’ voluntarily, or does such growth have a life of its own?

The above ideas are unified into a cohesive narrative with the concept of humans acting collectively as an unthinking, mindless, energy hungry Superorganism. 

Hagen’s 5-hour course called Reality 101 is available here.

Oxford event March 2019 “Heading for Extinction” featuring spokespersons (Monbiot & friends) from Extinction Rebellion and Climate Strike movements that would benefit from Hagen’s synthesis.
Self-destructive tyranny of growth – earth scientist conclusion.
Australian Report – (May 2019) advocates worst case risk assessment strategy for policy makers to avoid civilisational chaos by 2050. “To reduce this risk and protect human civilization, a massive global mobilization of resources is needed in the coming decade to build a zero-emissions industrial system and set in train the restoration of a safe climate,” the report reads. “This would be akin in scale to the World War II emergency mobilization.”

Turning point on climate policy?

This Guardian article by John Vidal, a former environmental editor of the newspaper, speculates about recent signs that politicians are beginning to take the warnings of scientists seriously. It surveys the sudden spread of influences and concludes:

But the risks of doing nothing far outweigh the possible pitfalls of really addressing climate change and biodiversity collapse. Of course there will be objections from diehard capitalists and liberals alike. But, to echo Margaret Thatcher as she pushed through the deregulation that has done so much to fuel the crisis: there really is no alternative.

Massive student strike for the climate planned for 24 May 2019 – strikes & marches in at least 110 countries expected . Also here.

Strikes for climate in 125 countries – May 24

Awareness of the climate crisis at last after 50+ years of trying and failing – Alice Roberts digs into the BBC archives – 01.01.19

Mexican minister pinpoints the blame for climate disruption


CNN coverage (short video) – comments by Paul Ehrlich

Under-reporting by mainstream media – 26 May

This Guardian article, rich in data and illustrations, comments on the new report from the UN Global Assessment Report that puts the existential threat of ecological devastation alongside that of climate change. As usual, the report calls for drastic and urgent change in human society:

a picture of a suffocating human-caused sameness spreading across the planet, as a small range of cash crops and high-value livestock are replacing forests and other nature-rich ecosystems. As well as eroding the soil, which causes a loss of fertility, these monocultures are more vulnerable to disease, drought and other impacts of climate breakdown.
“People shouldn’t panic, but they should begin drastic change. Business as usual with small adjustments won’t be enough.”

And here is another article on the Global Assessment of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) report, It is from The Conversation website and includes:

The report identified agriculture, forestry and urbanisation as the number one reason for biodiversity loss in land-based ecosystems and rivers. In the sea, fishing has had the greatest impact on biodiversity and is exacerbated by changes in the use of the sea and coastal lands.

This is followed closely by:

  • the direct use of species (primarily through harvesting, logging, hunting and fishing)
  • climate change
  • pollution
  • the invasion of non-native species.

These factors are aggravated by underlying social values, such as unsustainable consumption and production, concentrated human populations, trade, technological advances, and governance at multiple scales.

The Global Assessment concludes that current biodiversity laws and policies have been insufficient to address the threats to the natural world.