Weep for Cassandra if you must, but heed her warnings, for humanity’s sake

It’s April of 2022. We’ve had a couple years of disruption, primarily caused by the collision of late capitalism and SARS-CoV-2, which itself followed a couple years of unrest in the United States, and the growing realization that fascism was still a real threat. And in the background of all of this, we’ve had a steady march of disasters fueled by global warming, and scientific reports quantifying exactly how screwed we are.

Small wonder, then, that superstition seems to be on the rise. Every headline about black goo in a sarcophagus, or climate change revealing ancient artifacts was met with a lot of joking-not-joking about curses, or Pandora’s Box.

For myself, I have to wonder if some early climate scientist broke an indecent agreement with Apollo, so that all future climate scientists would be cursed to speak the truth about the growing threat of climate change, and to be disbelieved or dismissed by everyone with the power to do anything about it. Worse, an entire industry has formed around attacking and discrediting climate scientists. If you want to get a taste of that frustration, you can check out things like The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars, by Michael E. Mann.

I once heard someone say that the more you learn about nuclear power, the less it scares you, but the more you learn about climate change, the more it scares you. Imagine, then, the life of someone whose full time job is monitoring this unfolding catastrophe, and reporting on it to what often seems like an indifferent world.

The reality, of course, is that most of humanity is not indifferent. Most of us care very much about what’s happening, we just don’t currently have the power to change anything. That’s something we should be working on, but in the meantime, at least part of our efforts do need to go towards convincing the ruling class to at least stop accelerating towards the proverbial cliff. Climate scientists have been making that case for decades now, and it has been a thankless task.

Among the many attacks levied against them, one that always irked me especially was the claim that climate scientists were “getting political” by describing the implications of their research, and by urging action. It is so obviously insincere, and yet it has hung around. I think part of its longevity is the fact that it does double duty. It casts doubt on the science, and it communicates to the audience that “being political” is an inherently bad thing. That’s dangerous, of course, because if we’re going to have any hope of a better world, we must get political , and at a scale the world has never seen before.

I am nowhere close to being alone in making the Cassandra comparison, and unfortunately it seems to be just as unpleasant as you’d think. Peter Kalmus, a climate scientist, published this letter in association with a protest carried out by him and his colleagues:

I’m a climate scientist and a desperate father. How can I plead any harder? What will it take? What can my colleagues and I do to stop this catastrophe unfolding now all around us with such excruciating clarity?

On Wednesday, I risked arrest by locking myself to an entrance to the JP Morgan Chase building in downtown Los Angeles with colleagues and supporters. Our action in LA is part of an international campaign organized by a loosely knit group of concerned scientists called Scientist Rebellion, involving more than 1,200 scientists in 26 countries and supported by local climate groups. Our day of action follows the IPCC Working Group 3 report released Monday, which details the harrowing gap between where society is heading and where we need to go. Our movement is growing fast.

We chose JP Morgan Chase because out of all the investment banks in the world, JP Morgan Chase funds the most new fossil fuel projects. As the new IPCC report explains, emissions from current and planned fossil energy infrastructure are already more than twice the amount that would push the planet over 1.5°C of global heating, a level of heating that will bring much more intense heat, fire, storms, flooding, and drought than the present 1.2°C.

Even limiting heating to below 2°C, a level of heating that in my opinion could threaten civilization as we know it, would require emissions to peak before 2025. As UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said in the press conference on Monday: “Investing in new fossil fuel infrastructure is moral and economic madness.” And yet, this is precisely what President Biden, most other world leaders, and major banks are doing. It’s no exaggeration to say that Chase and other banks are contributing to murder and neocide through their fossil fuel finance.

Earth breakdown is much worse than most people realize. The science indicates that as fossil fuels continue to heat our planet, everything we love is at risk. For me, one of the most horrific aspects of all this is the juxtaposition of present-day and near-future climate disasters with the “business as usual” occurring all around me. It’s so surreal that I often find myself reviewing the science to make sure it’s really happening, a sort of scientific nightmare arm-pinch. Yes, it’s really happening.
If everyone could see what I see coming, society would switch into climate emergency mode and end fossil fuels in just a few years.

I hate being the Cassandra. I’d rather just be with my family and do science. But I feel morally compelled to sound the alarm. By the time I switched from astrophysics into Earth science in 2012, I’d realized that facts alone were not persuading world leaders to take action. So I explored other ways to create social change, all the while becoming increasingly concerned. I joined Citizens’ Climate Lobby. I reduced my own emissions by 90% and wrote a book about how this turned out to be satisfying, fun, and connecting. I gave up flying, started a website to help encourage others, and organized colleagues to pressure the American Geophysical Union to reduce academic flying. I helped organize FridaysForFuture in the US. I co-founded a popular climate app and started the first ad agency for the Earth. I spoke at climate rallies, city council meetings, and local libraries and churches. I wrote article after article, open letter after open letter. I gave hundreds of interviews, always with authenticity, solid facts, and an openness to showing vulnerability. I’ve encouraged and supported countless climate activists and young people behind the scenes. And this was all on my personal time and at no small risk to my scientific career.

Nothing has worked. It’s now the eleventh hour and I feel terrified for my kids, and terrified for humanity. I feel deep grief over the loss of forests and corals and diminishing biodiversity. But I’ll keep fighting as hard as I can for this Earth, no matter how bad it gets, because it can always get worse. And it will continue to get worse until we end the fossil fuel industry and the exponential quest for ever more profit at the expense of everything else. There is no way to fool physics.

Martin Luther King Jr said, “He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.” Out of necessity, and after exhaustive efforts, I’ve joined the ranks of those who selflessly risk their freedom and put their bodies on the line for the Earth, despite ridicule from the ignorant and punishment from a colonizing legal system designed to protect the planet-killing interests of the rich. It’s time we all join them. The feeling of solidarity is a wonderful balm.

As for the climate scientists? We’ve been trying to tell you this whole time.

This was one part of a multinational protest by over 1,000 climate scientists, aimed specifically at the big banks that are funding – and profiting from – our destruction. The notion that scientists ought to be non-political has always been a lie that could only ever benefit the powerful. In a world that seems to only value the sensational, we need acts of civil disobedience like this, and we need to build the capacity to wield collective power for the collective good. These scientists are in the right when they aim for the heart of our capitalist system, and while I really, really want to be wrong about this, I have little hope that our corporate overlords will suddenly decide to do the right thing.

One thing I think we should be doing, beyond organizing and protesting, is finding ways to bring up climate change with politicians and their representatives. Not just climate change, but the ways in which our system – working as it was designed – is making it profitable to turn this planet into a sweltering hellscape. Make it impossible for them to ignore, and when they respond with talking points, challenge those, and the ones that come after them. Individually, we’re limited in how much time and energy we can spend on this. Anyone with a sense of perspective realizes that the mightiest effort of one person is a drop in the bucket, compared to the size of the problem. If we can get enough of us moving in the same direction, those drops can become a relentless storm, and if we can’t force our rulers to at least go with the flow, then maybe we can wash them away.

Thanks to StevoR for requesting the topic.

If you like the content of this blog, please share it around. If you like the blog and you have the means, please consider joining my lovely patrons in paying for the work that goes into this. Due to my immigration status, I’m currently prohibited from conventional wage labor, so for the next couple years at least this is going to be my only source of income. You can sign up for as little as $1 per month (though more is obviously welcome), to help us make ends meet – every little bit counts!

What’s with all those big green and brown things that sway in the wind? Are they actually worth anything?

The way our society determines value is deeply flawed. It’s not that there’s no relationship between what things cost, and the resources expended to produce them, but a great many things are vastly over-valued, and many other things – including most life forms on the planet – are vastly under-valued. Those flaws are compounded by the fact that we seem to be increasingly encouraged to view every aspect of our lives through the lens of capitalism, in which things are generally deemed to have no value unless it’s proven someone will pay money for them. Unfortunately, that’s the world we’re still stuck in, so there’s probably some merit to calculating the economic value of life. When it comes to wildlife, the ways in which it benefits humanity are called “ecosystem services“, as part of what I view as a failed attempt to get capitalism to assign any value to a habitable environment. Quantifying their value to us may not do much to change policy or stop environmental destruction, but it does put things in terms to which we’re accustomed:

Trees sequester and store greenhouse gasses, filter air pollutants, provide wood, food, and other products, among other benefits. However, the service value of 400 individual tree species and tree lineages growing in forests and plantations in the contiguous U.S. was not previously known. To determine the ecosystem services value of U.S. trees, researchers mapped the value of trees and calculated the economic contributions to these services of every US tree species and lineage. They measured the net value of five tree-related ecosystem services by calculating the value of benefits provided, minus the direct costs incurred to produce these services. The five key ecosystem services included climate regulating services from carbon storage, filtration of particulate matter from the air that harms human health, and provisioning services from production of wood products, food crops, and Christmas trees.

The researchers found that the value of these five ecosystem services generated by trees totaled $114 billion annually. Carbon storage in tree biomass comprised 51% of the net annual value, while preventing human health damages via air quality regulation, contributed to 37% of the annual value. The remaining 12% of the net annual value came from provisioning services. Trees in the pine and oak families were the most valuable, generating $25.4 billion and $22.3 billion in annual net benefits, respectively. The study had several limitations that likely contributed to an undervaluing of ecosystem services since the researchers did not have access to data for many ecosystem services such as erosion control, flood regulation, and shade-related energy savings. They also did not evaluate disservices of trees. Future studies may provide more accurate estimates of the monetary value of these benefits.

According to the authors, “This study shows that the ‘hidden’ value of trees — the nonmarket value from carbon storage and air pollution filtration — far exceeds their commercial value. Sustaining the value of trees requires intentional management of forests and trees in the face of myriad and simultaneous global change threats. Our study provides information and an approach that can contribute to precision forestry practices and ecosystem management.”

Cavender-Bares adds, “The fact that tree lineages have evolved to inhabit different ecological niches across the continent is important for sustaining the ecosystem services that we depend on for our life support systems. These benefits from trees, however, are increasingly at risk. Our research team found that climate change threatens nearly 90 percent of tree species, while pests and pathogens put 40 percent of the combined weight of all U.S. trees at risk. We also found that the species and lineages of greatest ecosystem service value are the most at risk from pests and pathogens, climate change, and increasing fire exposure.”

One of the most irksome parts of this environmental collapse is that we know what’s happening, why it’s happening, and how to stop it. That’s not even a general “we know what’s happening”. We have thousands of scientists all over the world studying everything. That’s why we’re able to do things like putting a dollar value to trees, or wetlands. Day after day, week after week we hear the relentless accounting of everything that’s going on around us, and yet we still have to try to dress up reality with dollar signs and big numbers in a hopeless effort to get the tiny-minded ghouls who run the world to pay attention to what’s being lost.

It’s draining. But hey – at least we know roughly what trees are worth!

Tegan Tuesday: Etsy sellers are going on strike

Article edited April 15, 2022

Next week, from April 11th through the 18th, there is a seller strike on Etsy. After years of increasingly hostile policies, the new seller fee increase is a step too far. There have been a number of planned strikes over the years, but this is the first one I’ve seen that has had any real traction. Many sellers will be putting their shops on Vacation Mode, as this makes it so that sales cannot be processed, and the strikers request that people not attempt to purchase goods during that time.

For those not familiar, Etsy is a microtransaction website, much like eBay, only it does not offer the bidding set-up, and it has traditionally privileged homemade or vintage objects. Anyone who has ever made the foolish mistake of knitting in public has had at least one person tell them that they should sell their wares on Etsy. Some of those lovely strangers will get quite cranky at the lack of enthusiasm at being voluntold to monetize their hobby. Because of my ability to find easier work elsewhere, I have never been an Etsy seller. But I have been a shopper! I bought my silver and my china on Etsy, I’ve bought furs, and I’ve bought any number of sewing patterns and books. Heck, Abe and I got our wedding rings from a blacksmith’s Etsy shop — I have been a longtime Etsy customer. I haven’t bought much in years, however, for a number of reasons. Initially, as a consumer, it seemed like it was difficult to find anything. I can’t even particularly put my finger on anything specific, but about five years ago I felt that things that I should have easily found were rare, or shops that I used to love were gone. It was confusing, but ultimately didn’t impact my life, so I ignored it, and just bought less.

It turns out there there were a number of policies and decisions happening “under the hood” that were actively making it difficult for sellers to make a living. The first large decision that shaped all the rest was of course becoming publicly traded. As of April 16, 2015, Etsy, Inc (NASDAQ: ETSY) has been a publicly traded company and thus has to answer to its shareholders and drive profit up. Ever expanding upwards! And then began the price gouging and offloading of financial burden to sellers. To quote Denise Hendrick of Romantic Recollections:

In the last couple years they have raised rates and added new, mandatory fees. 15% fees on orders from ads they run and that we cannot turn off. 5% on the amount buyers pay for shipping. They strongly pressure sellers to offer free shipping and run sales. It all adds up fast. They added programs like “star seller” that add to our workload and are hard to meet, but if we don’t hit that goal we’re not listed as highly. At the same time, more and more sellers are selling mass produced junk.”

Last year (or the year before — time has no meaning since Covid) Etsy also strong-armed most sellers into offering “free” shipping. When sellers rightfully asked how that would work, Etsy’s official stance was to artificially inflate your prices to hide the shipping costs. This was also during a push to dodge any responsibility for the many, many, many shipping issues during the pandemic, and allow buyers to recoup their costs with no fault and sellers to have to eat said costs. Now the seller is out the product and the income. This fee structure is so hostile to sellers and many have either left Etsy, or use Etsy only as a way for people to find their personal website. Taylor of Dames a la Mode only lists stock pieces on Etsy and offers limited runs or customizable options on her personal site, as that is her primary selling space. In her statement of intent to strike she says:

Etsy has changed dramatically over the years, and the fee increases are endless. That’s why my stuff on Etsy costs more than my website – their fees are so high! And the worst thing is they force you to pay to promote your items outside of Etsy (I truly, truly hate this but you can’t opt out… infuriation!)

There have been so many new fees, and increased fees, and seller-hostile policies that many sellers have felt their stores are experiencing death by a thousand cuts. Many sellers feel that it’s only a matter of time before their profits do not exceed the overhead at Etsy. The reason for the strike is that with record-breaking profits from last year, Etsy is implementing a 30% seller fee increase on all sales. This is an absolutely ridiculous number. The fact that all sellers received a yearly newsletter congratulating Etsy and thanking their hard work for said profit, only to have this fee thrown in their faces is… very corporate America.

One of the most faithful voices I have heard concerning the many issues plaguing Etsy sellers is that of Sultry Vintage. She closed the Vintage end of her Etsy shop last year due to an ever-increasing hedge of fees with policies encouraging sales and slashing prices. Her recent statement about supporting the strikers went out today and I think sums up the general feeling well.

Storms a brewing. Etsy recently sent out a newsletter congratulating everyone on their record profits. They then shared the news that they’d be hiking fees. Because Etsy is a publicly traded company with a backwards minded CEO, they profit share with investors and squeeze sellers for more to hand over to shareholders.

Sellers are the sole reason Etsy exists at all.

I many not make my entire living off Etsy any longer – Etsy and its hot garbage policies since going public being a contributing factor to that – but I do solidly stand with tens of thousands of independent small businesses who do. Who built Etsy, and who are being taken to the cleaners every time their hard work pays off.

I’m asking three things. One, if you’ve ever said you support small business – mean it. Right now, refuse to shop on Etsy for the week of the 11th-18th. Shop directly with sellers if you need something or plan ahead. Two, spread the word. It’s a small ask with massive, rippling effects. Three, if you can strike for any amount of time, do. Put the message in your vacation banner as to why you’re striking. Etsy has a policy of not allowing you to inform customers that they can shop with you off etsy (hilarious), so let them know now where to find you for that week and that is a crucial moment for support and shopping alternatively, off etsy.

Etsy has decided sellers are puppets meant only to reap them profits. It’s time the corporate structure acknowledge that without its sellers, Etsy ceases to exist, and honor the labor sellers put in that makes them boatloads of money while small businesses drown.

Please spread the word and go directly to the organizers of this movement for more info @etsy.strike

It makes sense that with the absolute nightmare situation that is labor right now, strikes and unions are forming everywhere. The Etsy strike is yet another one, and I think the time is certainly ripe for this strike in particular, and labor rights in general.

Of course there is a downside. There’s always a downside. Sellers who are barely breaking even can’t afford to strike. Lauren of Wearing History is only striking on the first day, for example. She is financially unable to close for a whole week, and doesn’t have the wherewithal to maintain a site that can reach her international customer base the way Etsy can. I have thankfully seen nothing but kindness and respect to those sellers who say they are unable to strike for financial reasons. I hope that continues as we get closer to the strike, especially as the biggest impediment to strike support is wanting to also support Ukrainian sellers. Elizabeth-Iryna of Bygone Memorabilia, The Boudoir Key, and Marie Theresa and Lumieres has been one of the most vocal Ukrainian makers and offered a clear statement in opposition:

Some of you sent me the “Sellers Ask Customers to Boycott Etsy” news due to increasing fees.

Thank you for thinking of me. 🙂 Unfortunately, selling completely outside of Etsy is not possible for me at the moment. Ukrainian users of Paypal can’t use it for business. Etsy didn’t cancel any fees for Ukrainian shops. When I can, I will open my website. I also use the help of intermediary for a few, because Paypal is still unavailable for Ukrainian business.

I cannot boycott Etsy because selling e-patterns on there is my one and only source of income at the moment. Same for other Ukrainians.

Yes, Etsy is making money on us. But it helps us live, too.

And therein lies the quandary: Ukrainian makers who are trapped in Ukraine or those who are refugees in other countries have very few options for income right now, and digital resources on Etsy have been a staple. Much like the movement to rent Ukrainian AirBnBs to send funds to Ukrainians, many people have sent financial support through Etsy purchases. Strikes are always difficult and often hurt those with the most to lose. I wish the strike well, and I hope that it doesn’t severely impact those sellers relying solely on Etsy for their daily needs. I’m unfortunately pessimistic enough to suspect that it will have little-to-no impact on the decision-makers at Etsy, and Etsy will continue to function as the saying goes: I know it’s crooked, but it’s the only game in town.

Abe here – if you like the content of this blog, please share it around. If you like the blog and you have the means, please consider joining my lovely patrons in paying for the work that goes into this. Due to my immigration status, I’m currently prohibited from conventional wage labor, so for the next couple years at least this is going to be my only source of income. You can sign up for as little as $1 per month (though more is obviously welcome), to help us make ends meet – every little bit counts!

Action or despair? What’s the result of “climate deadline” rhetoric?

So I’m going to read the new IPCC report, and see if I have more in-depth commentary on it, but I wanted to say a couple words about the rhetoric surrounding the report, and a strategy I think basically anyone making six figures or more should consider.

While I get why it’s being pushed, the “now or never” rhetoric worries me for a couple reasons. The first is just that I’m worried it will push people to give up, since “now” clearly isn’t happening. The second is that I feel like it’s a continuation of the same obsession with the short term and with urgent crises that has gotten us to this point.

I have no evidence to back this up, but I think that if I was involved in climate messaging, I’d probably start making preparations for the world we seem to be creating, and simply talking about them in public on a regular basis. Store food against crop failures, and mention that it probably won’t be enough, if things keep warming. Start building water storage infrastructure, with rationing rules about how that emergency supply is to be used (very little for hygiene, for example). Put around plans to require new hotel construction (among other kinds of facilities) to double as emergency shelters with the capacity to keep indoor air at livable temperatures when it’s 45°C/113°F or higher, even if there’s a blackout. Put around draft regulations requiring new power plants to be able to operate safely under extreme heat wave conditions, because otherwise people will die.

If anyone with political or economic power happens to be reading this, and you actually care about climate change, the most powerful messaging you could probably do is to use the resources you have now to start making preparations for a much hotter world. You can be clear that you’re hoping this won’t be needed right away, but also paint a picture, with references to relevant research, of how our lives are going to change in the coming decades. Speeches will not work to convince people at this point – actions might have a shot.

And if people don’t like what your actions say about the future, then remind them that we know what we have to do to make that future better, we’re just not doing it.

I don’t know if this will be easier for politicians to do than directly tackling the fossil fuel industry right now, but I feel like it’s a powerful message to tell people that since corrupt monsters like Manchin (and many others) are preventing us from doing anything to slow or stop climate change, then it’s their duty to do what they can to help their constituents or communities survive.

Couple rhetoric with action wherever possible, and make it clear what path is being chosen for us with the status quo. I have a feeling that as things get worse, the political cost of opposing climate change adaptation measures will increase. It’s easy to abstract and confuse the causes of climate change, but when it comes to living with the effects, I think you’ll have a hard time convincing people that they don’t need to make any changes to survive.

It feels like we’re still stuck in the “capitalist realism” trap, where nobody seems to be able to conceive of any end to capitalism that isn’t also the end of the world. We know that technology and planning can help us survive more hostile conditions, but it really feels like the collective view is that if we can’t stop climate change from getting really bad, then we might as well just give up and die. It’s not just a bad strategy, it’s also frankly pathetic from a species with ambitions to live on other planets.

I don’t want to live in a world that’s a couple degrees hotter, but I don’t want to live under capitalism either, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to give up on my life and my species because a few rich assholes can’t be bothered to do the bare minimum for future generations. When we miss climate deadlines, that does mean certain changes are inevitable. It does not mean that if we don’t take action now, taking action a little later will be pointless – it’ll just be harder.

If you like the content of this blog, please share it around. If you like the blog and you have the means, please consider joining my lovely patrons in paying for the work that goes into this. Due to my immigration status, I’m currently prohibited from conventional wage labor, so for the next couple years at least this is going to be my only source of income. You can sign up for as little as $1 per month (though more is obviously welcome), to help us make ends meet – every little bit counts!

Video: Leaked Applebee’s Email Vindicates Karl Marx

There are a number of people on the left who put maybe a little too much stock in “reading theory” as an essential part of being a good leftist. I think they have a bit of a point. In all fields, theory helps us make sense of what we’re seeing, and gives us lenses through which to consider new information. That said, there’s a lot of stuff in “theory” that can be pretty well reasoned out by pretty much anyone. In this case, a leaked email points to what Marx described as the “reserve army of labor” – an under-class that is always in a state of economic desperation, so that there’s always someone willing to take starvation wages, because it’s all they can get. In this case, it’s management celebrating that poverty by talking about how the increase in gas prices will mean more people scrabbling for any job they can get, which means management can start paying people less. I’m willing to bet these people sleep fine at night, and that’s the kind of person our system empowers.

If you want a more in-depth look, I recommend this discussion clipped from the Left Reckoning podcast:


Do your droughts take too long to dry up the land? Try new and improved Flash Droughts!

Flash droughts have always been a thing – the term refers to a drought that dries out the landscape to a given point within five days – and they don’t seem to be getting more frequent right now.


What they are doing, is getting faster.

Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University and Texas Tech University found that although the number of flash droughts has remained stable during the past two decades, more of them are coming on faster. Globally, the flash droughts that come on the fastest — sending areas into drought conditions within just five days — have increased by about 3%-19%. And in places that are especially prone to flash droughts — such as South Asia, Southeast Asia and central North America — that increase is about 22%-59%.

Rising global temperatures are probably behind the faster onset, said co-author and UT Jackson School Professor Zong-Liang Yang, who added that the study’s results underscore the importance of understanding flash droughts and preparing for their effects.


Flash droughts are relatively new to science, with the advancement of remote sensing technology during the past couple of decades helping reveal instances of soil rapidly drying out. This serves as the telltale sign of the onset of a flash drought and can make drought conditions appear seemingly out of the blue.

As the name suggests, flash droughts are short lived, usually lasting only a few weeks or months. But when they occur during critical growing periods, they can cause disasters. For example, in the summer of 2012, a flash drought in the central United States caused the corn crop to wither, leading to an estimated $35.7 billion in losses.

In this study, the scientists analyzed global hydroclimate data sets that use satellite soil moisture measurements to capture a global picture of flash drought and how it has changed during the past 21 years. The data showed that about 34%-46% of flash droughts came on in about five days. The rest emerge within a month, with more than 70% developing in half a month or less.

When they examined the droughts over time, they noticed the flash droughts happening more quickly.

The study also revealed the importance of humidity and variable weather patterns, with flash droughts becoming more likely when there’s a shift from humid to arid conditions. That makes regions that undergo seasonal swings in humidity — such as Southeast Asia, the Amazon Basin, and the East Coast and Gulf Coast of the United States — flash drought hot spots.

“We should pay close attention to the vulnerable regions with a high probability of concurrent soil drought and atmospheric aridity,” said Wang.

Mark Svoboda, the director of the National Drought Mitigation Center and originator of the term “flash drought,” said the advancement in drought-detecting technology and modeling tools — such as those used in this study — has led to growing awareness of the influence and impact of flash droughts. He said the next big step is translating this knowledge into on-the-ground planning.

“You can go back and watch that drought evolve in 2012 and then compare it to how that tool did,” said Svoboda, who was not part of the study. “We really have the stage well set to do a better job of tracking these droughts.”

I think what this means, from the point of view of agriculture, is that it’s very possible that without maintaining a reserve supply of water against flash droughts, a crop could be destroyed before there’s time to organize an emergency response. As with so many other aspects of living with climate change, it seems to me that step one is to create a society that values storing up resources against need, rather than using as much as we produce, as we produce it. It’s not a guaranteed solution to all problems, but it is a way to make it likely that you’ll have the time and energy to come up with a more tailored solution to whatever your problem is, because you’re less likely to be focused on bare survival.

Luck favors the prepared.

The rich and powerful don’t live in reality. That’s both terrifying, and cause for hope

Ok, so when I said I was “finishing up” my sanctions piece, I meant I was continuing to work on it and will have it done very soon. Self-imposed deadlines don’t always make me get things done when I want to, but they do at least move the work along. As with previous such things, I hope to have it out soon, so I can start taking way too long to finish my Outer Worlds post.

The fact that I’ve mostly maintained a solitary life, due to being a self-employed writer, means that the surreal passage of time many of us felt during lockdown has continued unabated. I’m reasonably sure I’ve been in Ireland for a year, but I could be off by a decade or two in either direction. B’fhéidir go raibh mé amú ag sióga.

That said, it also feels like news is moving rapidly. When we first decided to move to this side of the Atlantic, I have to admit that Putin was one of our bigger short-term worries, and while the war has had little affect on us beyond the emotional, I would have preferred to look back and think I was silly for worrying. I continue to hope for a swift end to the war, with as little bloodshed and as little of a shift towards authoritarianism as possible. As with so much else, it feels like there’s not much I can do beyond that.

I did, however, want to share this thread I came across. I can’t speak to the accuracy of this analysis, but it feels right to me. That should probably make me more suspicious of it, but I’m not seeing much of a hole in the reasoning:

The thread is pretty long, and I’ll include another couple bits of it, but this line of argument spoke to me not because I like playing strategy games like the Civ series to unwind, but because I’ve noticed this… video game logic, for lack of a better term, before. It has struck me a few times that libertarians seem to think reality is like an open-world roleplaying game. These can be single-player or multi-player, but one pretty consistent theme is endlessly replenishing natural resources. I think it first occurred to me while I was playing Witcher 3 a few years ago, and needed a little more money, so I just went out into the woods, found some monsters to kill, and hey presto, I’ve got what I need!

But even leaving out the way the game makes these slow and laborious activities quick and easy, there’s the fact that if you pluck an herb, it will have regrown within a couple days, and that continues year-round, forever. In a game world like that, libertarianism actually almost makes sense. There’s a direct correlation between time invested and rewards gained, and it’s easy to “make a living”, even on the hardest difficulty. The same is true of pretty much all of these games – they all come with an endlessly and rapidly replenished commons, so no matter how bad things get, if you’re alive, you can go from having nothing at all, to being pretty rich ten times out of ten. Not only that, but everyone starts out in the same place. It really is a level playing field. While I was thinking about writing a post about this, back in 2020, Thought Slime beat me to it, with a video focused on Minecraft:

When I was a kid, I thought adults had it all figured out. I think that’s a pretty common experience, and it probably makes for a far more comfortable childhood than the alternative. I have no shame at having had that misconception. I lost it as I grew older, and it wasn’t something I particularly needed to be taught. What does cause me a little shame is how long I held on to the belief that politicians and pundits have any more of a clue what they’re doing than anyone else. Certainly, some of them have expertise in areas like law that most of us lack. Overall I think division of labor is a good thing. The problem is the message that competence in law (or “business”) is an indicator of competence in governance. Again, it’s a claim I believed for a time, but eventually I realized that it wasn’t a coincidence that most of our leaders seemed so incompetent, or so ignorant. For a lot of them, they’re so detached from reality, that their actual lives probably do feel pretty similar to being the main character of a video game.

And I have to say that that is both a clarifying and terrifying realization. In a lot of ways, we are at the mercy of immensely powerful children who never fully grew up, and who don’t really see us as much more than the background and programming for their game.

A quick glance at history will show the horrors wrought by this arrangement of power, but I also think provides us with very real grounds for hope. People who think they’re in a video game are far less likely to be prepared for the non-player characters in that game to organize and cut off access to goods and services. They’re utterly dependent on most people going along with how they want the world to work, and they run into problems when reality doesn’t go along with their plans.

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