But others say scaring people is the only way to make them care. Perhaps the most famous purveyor of climate scare tactics is Guy McPherson. Described by the New York Times as an “apocalyptic ecologist”, McPherson’s doomsday theory of “near-term extinction” has attracted something of a following. McPherson wrote on his website, which includes links to suicide hotlines, that the David Wallace-Wells piece “largely captures my message”.
I am not at all well. Reflection upon my personal mortality is in order. I find it is a hard struggle to organise clear lines of thought, compared with my abilities before the stroke, so it is a challenge to write these blog posts. I remain positive and optimistic that I’ll get better. I chose to do this, so this is what I do. Nobody instructed me to do it, nobody pays me to do it. I share what’s on my mind with my readers, for better or worse, and hope someone out there finds it helpful and rewarding.
McPherson’s analysis, that we humans are upon the brink of imminent extinction, may well be correct. Or, it might be wrong. Am I going to live long enough to find out ? Possibly not, but those younger than me will likely be around after I’m gone, and they’ll discover whatever the Fates have in store for them…
Having followed McPherson for some years, I know that he began by predicting human extinction was likely to occur somewhere around the end of this 21st. century, and then, as time passed, he fast-forwarded it toward being imminent in our immediate future.
So, in accord with his predictions, we should really all be gone by now, and if not last year, then definitely by next year. Or the year after. Or the one after that…. Or…
By using his status and authority as an (ex) professor, he can manipulate people by scaring them, rather like the eccentric Jehovah’s Witnesses that used to walk around in London wearing ‘Repent, because the End is Nigh’ sandwich boards. They may still be doing it, for all I know.
So, he’s been playing the Prophet of Doom role for a long time now, and attempts to support his claim by way of logic, reason, and evidence. And then, there’s the fascinating vicious sadistic twist, that if people do indeed accept his analysis and believe that we are all upon the brink of extinction, he tells them that there is nothing at all that they can do about it…. we are in a PREDICAMENT with no EXIT. Except death. The curious adventure that occurs between the womb and the tomb….
So we, or rather, they, his audience, are locked into a horrible and scary fantasy about oncoming terminal global disaster, where all that they know and love comes to a very nasty ending. And we are all powerless to avoid this doom, and are thus forced to follow his recipe to appreciate the brief moments that remain. Thus we can think about our lives as being locked in paralysis, helpless, like someone in one of those nightmares where you cannot move your body as the demonic spectre approaches ever closer…
Time will tell whether he is correct about his apocalyptic scenario. It’s worth bearing in mind that the Archdruid scoured the literature and found many earlier examples from the historical record where individuals have proclaimed similar prophetic ‘End of the World’ scenarios. It’s a recognisable pattern of behaviour for the last two or three millennia.
Mostly these tactics seem like a form of psychological and emotional manipulation, using rhetoric to try to push the audience in one direction or another, much as a lawyer in a courtroom attempts to persuade a jury to convict or acquit. Typically, the figures using this strategy have been religious or pseudo-religious individuals whose preaching and dramatic pronouncements provide them with status and attention they would not receive otherwise.
It used to be Old Testament prophet types exorting the public toward moral conduct by means of fear of God’s Wrath, an archetype which can be easily traced all the way back to Moses.
Now we have McPherson, crying in the wilderness from self-imposed exile, claiming to use climate science and biology, rather than mysticism, to sustain his case.
One problem is, that for a speaker to carry conviction, demands some personal integrity. Otherwise, you’re always open to attack as a fraud or hypocrite. You know, if a preacher from a pulpit instructs the faithful followers that adultery is sinful, and all the while is having an illicit affair with someone else’s wife, how can you trust him and the integrity of his teaching ?
I don’t know how widespread this moral stricture is, maybe it’s a Western Christian thing, or from the Greek philosophical heritage, I read somewhere that it’s not been a part of Japanese culture. The Japanese always understood that individuals have a fake public face, so to speak, which is distinct from their authentic private viewpoint. If I recall correctly, that came up re the Fukushima disaster, when all the public officials followed the same line, that there was no problem, despite the obvious mounting evidence of a catastrophe. It’s kinda impolite and asking for trouble to contradict a superior.
This latest episode in the McPherson saga… well, I think it’s the third or fourth time, isn’t it ? No smoke without fire ? He’s got a lot of enemies and there are powerful forces which wish to discredit and neutralise him, of course. But that’s all the more reason why he should have had impeccable morals. It makes me wonder, when the same pattern recurs, and people who were previously close friends and supporters who know him much better than I do, now choose to reject him and distance themselves.
It might be the case, that he was overly confident, having gained University tenure at an unusually young age, that he judged himself secure enough to behave in a reckless fashion. But that judgement proved to be mistaken. The University decided to throw him out, possibly because of his conduct with some female students. Or possibly, because (as he claimed) of his radical politics. Or possibly both ?
Or perhaps he was altogether innocent, as he has insisted. It must have been a shock, that he misjudged his own power, and he seems to have spent most of his time since then trying to get revenge, both on the education establishment and society in general. Because he had, still has, legal tenure, he can still claim to be titled as an emeritus professor, and get paid, even though he’s not done that job for years.
Maybe he was treated unjustly, or maybe he had exploited his position and did have inappropriate sexual liaisons. I do not know. I believed him when he denied it the first time, but when the same sort of question has been raised repeatedly, doubts do appear.
Presumably, he is still sufficiently lucid, compos mentis, to know in his own heart what really occurred. In earlier centuries such cases were handed over to the torturers, who’d extract a confession with red hot pincers on the rack, and similar tools and devices. But, unfortunately, that’s no guarantee of ‘truth’, is it, because people will say anything, if they think it’ll make the unendurable pain stop.
Being an individual of impeccable moral virtue is also not an effective defence. Many people hate those who are more honourable than themselves, those who refuse to join sordid crimes or evil schemes. I suppose the Jesus story is the best exemplar of that pattern.
Whether we like it or not, we are all of us caught up in this enormous strange pageant of unfolding human history. Some are more driven to try and make some sense of it all than others. But who really knows ? We are fragile participants in some cosmic drama which is barely understood, a saga where we inevitably encounter The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse…
One hundred years after the Spanish flu pandemic, could we be facing another deadly global outbreak?
How the flu kills
When you start getting sick, it can be hard to tell if you have a cold or the flu. This guide can help. You can treat your symptoms with home remedies, but this is really NOT a virus to mess around with. It’s killing people. Rapidly. Even those who seem to be in prime health can be felled by the virus, like the 21-year-old fitness enthusiast who died 5 days after contracting H3N2.
According to Scientific American, it isn’t the flu that kills people, but the body’s attempt to heal itself.
The aftermath of the false alert was “crazy,” she told NBC Bay Area, and prompted people to run around on the streets “crying and screaming,” wondering what to do.
“I prayed to God and asked for forgiveness of my sins and for Him to protect us,” she said, adding that people are still shaken up.
Andy Thammavongsa, who tweeted a screenshot of his phone that showed the time between each alert, lives in Ewa Beach and told NBC in a Twitter message, “Everyone was panicking, the whole island was awake and alert.”
He added that “there’s nothing really you can do honestly” if the alert were real, saying there’s “nowhere to take shelter, the island is only so big.”
As we detailed below, many people in Hawaii took to social media during and after the alert.
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Update 1: Gov. David Ige and head of Hawaii’s Emergency Management agency, Vern Miyagi, told Hawaii News Now that the false alert was the result of human error – and boiled down to someone pushing the wrong button.
Oddly, while the local officials proclaimed it an error, The White House described a false inbound missile alert received by Hawaii residents on Saturday morning as an “emergency management exercise,” offering no further explanation for the erroneous warning.
* * *
Shortly after 8am local time Saturday, Hawaii’s emergency alert system sent out a shocking tweet to its citizens: “Ballistic Missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek Immediate shelter, This is not a drill.”
The emergency alert was sent to all cellphones…
As James Thurber demonstrated there’s something absurdly funny about folks running for their lives when no real danger exists.
The Day the Dam Broke
Meanwhile hundreds of people were streaming by our house in wild panic, screaming “Go east! Go east!” We had to stun grandfather with the ironing board. Impeded as we were by the inert form of the old gentleman — he was taller than six feet and weighed almost a hundred and seventy pounds — we were passed, in the first half-mile, by practically everybody else in the city.
Had grandfather not come to, at the corner of Parsons Avenue and Town Street, we would unquestionably have been overtaken and engulfed by the roaring waters — that is, if there had been any roaring waters.
As I see it, human life has always been brief, insecure and temporary. This is why we need stories, narratives and meta-narratives, to sustain us from day to day, so that we can cope and deal with the anxiety, pain and suffering. People differ a lot in temperament and intelligence, so ‘one size fits all’ is unlikely to work for a large populace of many millions from a variety of social and cultural backgrounds.
The weaponry exists sufficient to kill all human beings and most other organisms several times over. It’s controlled by the leaders and military of several nations, the USA, China, Russia, Britain, France, India, Pakistan, Israel, North Korea… did I forget any ? I was thinking of thermo-nuclear bombs, but there are many other options. I mean, conventional explosive weapons are powerful and horrendous, and then there’s chemical and biological agents, and all manner of electronic devices which can scramble people’s nervous systems and debilitate them.
It’s all rather depressing and grim. But, we have survived, as a species, for hundreds of thousands of years, against great odds. Mother Nature has confronted and challenged us with myriad horrors, wars, fierce beasts, poisonous insects and snakes, multiple disease organisms, all manner of natural catastrophes, floods, freezes, famines, volcanoes, earthquakes, hurricanes and whatnot. And – somehow – we, the survivors, are still here. Think about it. It’s most remarkable.
As individual humans, we each have a short time to glimpse this incredible display, and to contribute whatever we can, hopefully to make it better rather than worse.
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