We’re All Being Victimized

At last the camera has found you. You’ve been waiting your whole life and now, because of something that happened to someone else, they want to know what you think. Our best advice: don’t do it. (Photo by Dave Radcliff/Flickr)

At last the camera has found you. You’ve been waiting your whole life and now, because of something that happened to someone else, they want to know what you think. Our best advice: don’t do it. (Photo by Dave Radcliff/Flickr)

At the risk of — no, acknowledging the certainty of — sounding callous, and offending many, may I just say that I am tired of hearing from victims’ families? There is no shortage of life coaches, psychologists and members of other dubious professions to urge us all not to be a victim; why is no one pointing out that being related to someone who becomes famous as a victim is to be avoided at all costs, denied if at all possible, and — all else failing — endured in dignified silence. Being a victim-in-law does not confer special knowledge, rights, or merit. The fact that your uncle was killed by a meteorite does not make you an expert in meteorology (wait, does that track?) nor should it give you standing to sue the Hubble Telescope for failing to warn him in time. Continue reading

China Burning: This is Not a Drill

Chinese residents of Ningbo, breathing through face masks, protest the announced expansion of a petrochemical plant, while in Beijing, shrouded by air pollution, a spectacular stage production praises the country’s progress. (Photo tableau by Tjebbe van Tijen/Flickr)

Chinese residents of Ningbo, breathing through face masks, protest the announced expansion of a petrochemical plant, while in Beijing, shrouded by air pollution, a spectacular stage production praises the country’s progress. (Photo tableau by Tjebbe van Tijen/Flickr)

China has proved to be so much better than us at fouling its own nest that it is winning hands-down the lemming-like race we are having to the edge of the cliff that defines the end of the industrial age. China — Communist! China — has adopted our religion (the absolute love of money) with a zeal that makes the archbishops of Wall Street look like apostates. It has sacrificed to its new found god its air, land, water and now its financial system, at such speed it is beginning to blaze like a rock falling into the atmosphere. As the country singer puts it: “Falling feels like flying — for a little while.”

Imitation may be the sincerest form  of flattery, but can turn out badly when the object of the admiration is suicidal. China adopted all our vices at once — relocation of the rural population to jammed cities, runaway industrial and commercial development, electrification, automobilization, to name a few. And it not take any of our virtues, such as a free press, a vibrant environmental movement, a once-strong regulatory environment. It wanted, and it got, a machine that moved at blinding speed and that had no brakes. There have been casualties. Continue reading

IPCC: Wolf! Wolf! No, Really, Wolf!

The last house on Holland Island in the Chesapeake Bay, possibly one of the first casualties of climate change induced storms and rising seas. Think they had any warning? (Photo by baldeaglebluff/Flickr)

The last house on Holland Island in the Chesapeake Bay, possibly one of the first casualties of climate change induced storms and rising seas. Think they had any warning? (Photo by baldeaglebluff/Flickr)

According to the world’s largest assemblage of climate scientists, the view forward is bleak. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says we should expect:

  • millions of people to be displaced by rising seas and more frequent raging storms;
  • more droughts, and more intense heat waves, in more places;
  • extreme shortages of food, fuel, and medicine around the world.

That’s what the IPCC said in its first report, published in 1990. In reports issued every seven years since, including the one out today, it has said the same things, with increasing urgency and certainty. Continue reading

Critical Acclaim Greets TRIBULATION, a novel of the coming crash

Front CoverCritics across the country are heaping praise on Tribulation: A Novel of the Near Future by Thomas A. Lewis, editor of The Daily Impact and author of the 2009 book Brace for Impact: Surviving the Crash of the Industrial Age. The novel picks up on one of the scenarios of collapse laid out in Brace for Impact, and imagines how it might play out. Kirkus Reviews calls it “A riveting, somewhat terrifying work of political speculative fiction…a thorough takedown of corporate statehood, blind wastefulness and human greed.”

Lewis says he was inspired to write the novel by a TED talk he heard broadcast a few years ago in which a storyteller made the point that humans are not wired to enjoy or retain facts, but they remember as good story forever. He thought it might be useful to array the arguments for impending collapse, as laid out in Brace for Impact, in a story telling how the crash might affect a family, and how they might react to it.

The story begins with Brian Trent calling his retired father, one day in the near future, to say, “We’re going to the Farm,” William reacts with alarm. Because Brian, a top reporter for The Washington Post, is really saying that he believes the country’s economy is about to crash, and he and his family are heading for a sanctuary they’ve prepared in the mountains of West Virginia. William does not believe that America could come apart…until he sees it start to happen, with unbelievable speed, the very next day. Continue reading

A Tale of Two Stories

Dropped your sandwich? As long as you pick it up in five seconds, go ahead and eat it. That’s what science says. (Photo by pixabay.com/p-298762)

Dropped your sandwich? As long as you pick it up in five seconds, go ahead and eat it. That’s what science says. (Photo by pixabay.com/p-298762)

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of information, it was the age of ignorance. The emergence last week of two news stories, and the story of how they did or did not flourish, casts harsh light on the state of journalism and our democratic republic. One story was funded by NASA, conducted with rigorous standards of research, reviewed by peer scientists and published in a legitimate scientific journal. Its subject was the end of the world as we know it. The other was tossed off by a handful of students in a science class, observed few scientific standards, was reviewed by no one and published nowhere in the academic press. It was about dropping food on the floor. So you guess: Which one went viral around the world, generated tons of newsprint and oceans of comment in every medium of communication; and which one was virtually ignored except when it was attacked as misleading? Continue reading

Duke Energy’s Coup d’Etat in North Carolina

Duke Energy workers, apparently still under the impression that they are above the law, pump toxic coal ash residue into North Carolina's Cape Fear River. (Photo by the Waterkeeper Alliance)

Duke Energy workers, apparently still under the impression that they are above the law, pump toxic coal ash residue into North Carolina’s Cape Fear River. (Photo by the Waterkeeper Alliance)

You will encounter frequent references here to industry’s wholly-owned and -operated Congress, or state legislature, or government agency. Usually, some irony is intended. But in North Carolina, irony is extinct; the state government is wholly owned and operated by Duke Energy. It is still true that absolute power corrupts absolutely, but it is no longer true that the citizens of this Republic give a tinker’s dam about corruption as long as the lights are on, the gas is cheap and there’s football on Saturday. Yet evil is so stupid, the power-mad are so given to wretched excess, that having won everything, they are capable of losing everything, because they cannot rest from destruction. Continue reading

Billions of Shellfish Die as Ocean Turns to Acid

Ocean acidification is taking a heavy toll on the world's shellfish, especially in the Pacific Northwest.

Ocean acidification is taking a heavy toll on the world’s shellfish, especially in the Pacific Northwest.

Climate change is not the only threat posed by the exploitation and pollution of the natural world, it is not even necessarily the one that’s going to bring the industrial world down. Many afflictions are competing for that distinction, and one of them — ocean acidification — has a good shot. The waters of the Pacific Northwest off Washington State and the Canadian province of British Columbia have become so acidic that the once-thriving shellfish industry there is on life support. Since nothing whatsoever is being done about the root cause of the problem — emissions of carbon dioxide from the combustion of fossil fuels — it is not reasonable to expect a solution. Continue reading

NASA Study: Irreversible Collapse Likely

Mayan ruins

The sudden crash of a wealthy, technologically advanced civilization is not rare in history. Can you say Mayan? (Photo by amber.kennedy/Flickr)

A major, multi-disciplinary study combining the perspectives of theoretical mathematics, natural and social sciences and — gasp! — history, among others, has concluded that a total, irreversible collapse of the world’s industrial civilization is both likely and imminent. The peer-reviewed study, which has been accepted for publication in the journal Ecological Economics, confirms in detail the conclusions of my 2009 book Brace for Impact, the premises of The Daily Impact, and the scenario of my forthcoming novel Tribulation. Continue reading

Ukraine, etc: Pundits Fiddle While World Burns

Why would anyone go against well armed and armored riot police with a piece of pipe (as here, in Kiev, on December 1)? That is the question. (Wikipedia photo)

Why would anyone go against well armed and armored riot police with a piece of pipe (as here, in Kiev, on December 1)? That is the question. (Wikipedia photo)

Since the Ukraine crisis bloomed into violence three months ago, reporters and analysts have floundered to tuck the bloody, explosive events into a nice narrative we can all be comfortable with. It’s a tug-of-war, we’ve been told, between East and West, between Russia and Europe, between Putin and Obama. (How in the world did this turn out to be Obama’s fault, as well?) Or it’s a resumption of the Cold War, no, it’s a Hot Cold War, no, it’s Soviet Union II.

While they have been thus laboring, the members of the chattering class have been overwhelmed by similar, new rebellions in Venezuela, Thailand, Turkey, Bosnia and Iceland (Yes! Iceland, for crying out loud!) added to the still-simmering uprisings in Egypt, Libya, Iraq and Syria, and the barely-under-control semi-rebellions bubbling in Iran, China, Pakistan, India and Argentina. Not hard to understand why beads of sweat are popping through the makeup of the pundits and politicians who are trying to maintain the not-to-worry, we’ve-seen-all-this-before attitude that will keep us from getting interested. Fact is, we’ve never seen anything like this before. Continue reading

Chinese Academy: Beijing Almost “Uninhabitable”

Beijing Uninhabitable

Pollution in Beijing last year, before it got really bad. (Photo by Pekka Tamminen/Flickr)

Unbridled air pollution has reached such concentrations in Beijing and six of China’s northern provinces that breathing and photosynthesis have become almost impossible. In addition, landing airplanes, driving cars, and seeing anything, have become extremely difficult in an epic smog concentration that has persisted for more than a week. According to the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences — the second largest academic institution in the country — the capital city is virtually “uninhabitable for human beings.” Continue reading