Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder

There is some increasingly interesting and grim research on the psychological consequences and affects of rapidly changing environmental conditions and global warming available. This is a summation of a report by Van Susteren and Coyle, reblogged from Climate Progress:
We spend vast amounts of time and personal energy trying to calculate the most urgent threats posed by climate change. Washington, D.C. psychiatrist and climate activist Lise Van Susteren, however, says the most insidious danger may already be upon us. She’s not talking about heat, drought, floods, severe storms, or rising seas. She’s focused on the psychological risks posed by global warming.
Van Susteren has co-authored a report on the psychological effects of climate change that predicts Americans will suffer “depressive and anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorders, substance abuse, suicides, and widespread outbreaks of violence,” in the face of rising temperatures, extreme weather, and scarce resources. Van Susteren and her co-author Kevin Coyle write that counselors and first responders “are not even close to being prepared to handle the scale and intensity of impacts that will arise from the harsher conditions and disasters that global warming will unleash.”
There is currently no organized discipline for the study of the psychological risks of climate change, yet it is already taking a toll on many people who tackle this issue. Surprisingly susceptible are those who might seem to be immune.
“The climate deniers? I always say they‘re really too stressed to hear the truth,” said Van Susteren. “We see this kind of thing in my work all the time, where people who aren’t ready to hear the truth about something will simply say it doesn’t exist.”
Those who do acknowledge the problem face a different set of issues, particularly those who work on the problem. Lisa Van Susteren coined the term “pre-traumatic stress disorder” to describe the grief, anger, and anxiety clinging to the scientists and advocates whose job it is to gaze into a future that can look increasingly bleak. [MORE]

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Professor of Environmental Humanities

This job opportunity may be of interest to some of my readers. Details here. 
Professor of Environmental Humanities

Shape the new home of world-changing ideas
Bath Spa University is an inspiring place, founded on creativity, culture and enterprise. We are creating a world-leading research centre in Environmental Humanities. We are looking to appoint a Professor of Environmental Humanities who will chair the centre and play a pivotal role in university-wide projects spanning disciplines as diverse as film-making, literature and history, and environmental sciences.

The successful candidate will shape the centre’s research and secure external funding to address interconnected social and environmental issues. Involving environmental education, connecting communities and creating change, this is a unique opportunity which will call on your commitment to sustainable futures, and expertise in such areas as ecological criticism, geography and philosophy.

Discover more and apply at
For an informal discussion of this post, please call Professor John Strachan, Vice Provost for Research and Enterprise, on 01225 876292.

Closing date: 1 October 2015.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

What are we meant to do when we are told the world is ending?

Reblogging this piece I came across by Clive Martin from March 27th 2014. It encapsulates a recurrent question students on ecological philosophy courses I run ask, and it's a 'hardy perennial' for anyone who makes a habit of staring into the interlocking and unfolding ecological and social crises of the twenty-first century.
[VICE] It's become commonplace to say that we, as "young people", have no future. We blame the shocking unemployment levels, we blame the Lib Dems' collaboration in the benign Vichy coalition we live under, we blame the baby boomers who are refusing to bequeath their wealth to the generation beneath them, we blame Thatcher for creating a society of bored and broken service industry workers whose jobs are constantly under threat. And we're right to.
I fully agree that these problems have sent everyone a bit mad, forcing us into a fruitless, childless existence that we can only escape with drinking games, Tesco Finest meals, cheap flights, gut-rotting drugs and shit games on our phones. But what is our generation going to do when the shit really hits the fan? Not when Carphone Warehouse pull out of the UK and universities cost 30 grand a year, but when Armageddon starts WhatsApping us?

Everyone’s been predicting the end of time since time began, obviously. God was going to kill us. Then the devil was going to kill us. Then the nuclear bomb was going to kill us. And now asteroids, or the sea, or our own shitty behaviour is going to kill us. Whatever happens, we know that one day it's all going to end in fire and for the media, this paranoia is a golden ticket. The ultimate paper-selling, SEO-friendly scare story – because most people are going to have at least some passing interest in hearing how and when their species is going to end. It's grade-A clickbait with a highbrow twist: the holy grail of the modern media.

Unfortunately, when you pick up the Guardian or whatever, it’s not mad men waving "THE END IS NIGH" placards, it’s really serious-sounding scientists. This gives weight not only to individual scare stories about bird flu or acid rain, but more significantly to the patchwork of terror, which suggests that – through a combination of gluttony, stupidity and cruelty – we’ve pretty much fucked the planet and the future is looking very much like a disaster film directed by Hieronymus Bosch.

The latest study I read comes from the pretty solid source of NASA, who've worked out that just because our society has managed to produce Citalopram, Itsu and Spotify, we aren't immune from the same kind of collapse that has eventually befallen every other human society in history. And that our resource-plundering modern habits aren't exactly helping our case for survival, either.

It's interesting, and somewhat sobering reading. Much like Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer's retort to Michael Gove, it's a piece that will make you wonder if it's worth just shuffling off this mortal coil with as little fuss as possible.

And that’s the real question: What we are we supposed to do with this information? Is there anything we can do? Or should we just get the patio chairs out of the garage, put some Stella on ice and wait for our neighbours to start barbequing Alsatians? I mean, it’s one thing for old people to hear that their legacy is fucked, but it’s another for young people to hear that they have no future. [CONTINUES]

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Agnes Török - 'Worthless'

[Youtube] "Poem by Agnes Török on the news of a new Conservative budget. Based on experiences of living in Britain under austerity as a young, queer, unemployed, female immigrant student - and not taking it any more. More info on: "

Feminist Philosophy Quarterly

The Feminist Philosophy Quarterly launches today. Free pdf downloads of articles available.

The Stickiness of the Fossil Fuel Age

Interesting piece on the distortion of carbon dating caused by the fossil fuel age here. It seems like Tim Morton's analysis of global warming as a hyperobject, perhaps most notably its trait of viscosity, could be applied to this in an illuminating manner.

[Climate Progress] Those concerned with climate change spend a lot of time arguing that it’s not just an environmental problem, but also an economic, human rights, national security, and even mental health issue. Now a new study has found that greenhouse gas emissions could impact a range of unlikely fields due to their effect on radiocarbon dating, a much-heralded scientific method used to determine the age of objects containing organic material.

The study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that emissions from fossil fuels are artificially raising the carbon age of the atmosphere, which makes objects today seem much older than they are when scrutinized by a radiocarbon dater. This change in the ability to date objects could impact measurements commonly taken in a broad range of endeavors, including archaeology, forgery detection, forensics, earth science, and physiology.

For instance, the study suggests that by 2050 — just 35 years from now — new clothes could have the same radiocarbon date as something worn during the Battle of Hastings in 1066. [MORE HERE]

Monday, 13 July 2015

Harvard Study on Bee Colony Collapse

[CS Globe] "One area we are waking up to is the massive amount of pesticides we spray (especially in North America) on our food that has not only been linked to human disease, but a massive die off in the global bee population within the past few years.

A new study out of Harvard University, published in the June edition of the Bulletin of Insectology puts the nail in the coffin, neonicotinoids are killing bees at an exponential rate, they are the direct cause of the phenomenon labeled as colony collapse disorder (CCD).

Neonicotinoid’s are the world’s most widely used insecticides." [READ MORE]


Well, the Greek bailout is being described by many and is trending on social media as a coup (ThisIsACoup), but I'm not sure if even that goes far enough. Krugman's initial comment on the deal, that 'this goes beyond harsh into pure vindictiveness, complete destruction of national sovereignty, and no hope of relief', seems to capture the direction of my own thinking. I accept that the Greek "choice" has often looked like one between 'starvation and slavery' as events have intensified over the last few weeks. But this now looks like a decisive victory for the Troika and Eurozone-instantiated monsters of finance and neoliberalisation, an economic vernichtungsschlacht. Time to revisit Graeber and the moralisation of debt.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

The Depressive Realism of Climate Scientists

If you can tolerate the ads, there is an excellent and pleasingly quite long article in Esquire exploring the attitudes and darker reflections of many leading climate scientists and activists. I found the response of the more moderate/hopeful scientist, Gavin Schmidt, the most personally provocative:
"Bad things are going to happen. What can you do as a person? You write stories. I do science. You don't run around saying we're fucked! We're fucked!  We're fucked!' It doesn't - it doesn't incentivize anybody to do anything."
Schmidt was responding here to the glaciologist Jason Box's now infamous July 29th 2014 tweet, "If even a small fraction of Arctic sea floor carbon is released to the atmosphere, we're f'd." Unfortunately, on the question of how to incentivize people (a horrible term), it seems that the routes to human inaction and indifference with regard to global warming are many and varied. Not talking about it doesn't incentivize people, the facts don't incentivize most people, neither does the well-trodden path of presenting/peddling a hopeful or optimistic message incentivize people. The aesthetico-political, psychological and affective cocktail of forces needed to generate any significant response to the unfolding climatic catastrophe is likely to be more complex, and need to draw upon some fairly exotic pragmatic strategies, in order to meaningfully impact the systemic inertia of Business As Usual. Frankly, I consider a (large) number of well-informed and otherwise quietly reflective individuals shouting "we're fucked" to be a rather potent ingredient in any such cocktail.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

A Picture is Worth a ...

I was originally going to post a link to the preview of these powerful pictures of human ecological overshoot at the Guardian here. However, I now note that the entire collection from Overdevelopment/Over-population/Overshoot has been made available via open access here (ht Gail). It's a potent visual testament to the ecocidal endgame of the human journey.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Is This How You Feel?

A valuable resource by science communicator Joe Duggan here, collecting together narratives and reflections by scientists and members of the public in response to the question: how do you feel about anthropogenic climate change?

Sunday, 25 January 2015

What can be saved?

There is an interesting post by George Mobus here, one which closely parallels the best case scenario to be outlined in my current book project. I do worry that something like Dilworth's vicious circle principle would repeatedly and tragically re-engage itself in human affairs after a global collapse, even following many cycles of societal collapse in the mid to long-term human future; thus leading to recurrent periods of human ecological overshoot. However, given that such cycles would take place in a world that Clugston characterises as one of "continuously less and less", plus one where the climatological catastrophe of the anthropocene would be unfolding with considerable and painful vigor, it is at least possible that humanity - or at least the genus Homo, as Mobus puts it - would eventually be ground down to a point far closer to dynamic equilibrium than it is now. I'm certainly not optimistic, neither is Mobus, but it is conceivable that something recognizably human might transition out of the current fifty thousand year period of cultural experimentation and ecocidal expansion. Of course, whether it ought to is an entirely different matter.

How to Save the Human Genus

What Can be Saved?

I am on record as saying I doubted that humanity as a global population could be saved from certain destruction. I have also stated that the species, Homo sapiens is probably not salvageable in its current form. However, I have also suggested that the salvation of the genus, Homo is both feasible and desirable. Let me briefly recount.
There is at this point, in my opinion, nothing that can be done to save the vast majority of humans alive today from a catastrophic demise. I am sorry. And below I will summarize my findings. The simple truth, as I see it, is that humanity has set itself on an irreversible course of destruction that is equivalent to the impact on the Ecos that the meteor or comet that crashed into the Yucatan peninsula had on the dinosaurian Ecos 65 million years ago. That is, by our activities we have brought about a geologically recognizable age called the Anthropocene in which we are the agents of the extinction of vast numbers of species, including, possibly, our own. Whenever such die-off events have happened in the past the Ecos shifted its characteristics and dynamics such that the extant species either went extinct or gave rise to new species of the same genus that were better adapted to the new Ecos. I fully expect the same kind of thing to happen in the future.
In any case the populations of critters and plants were decimated or severely reduced in number and that is what I suspect will happen to our populations. Homo sapiens must, of necessity, go extinct simply because the future environment will be extraordinarily hostile to human life. The real question is whether the genus might give rise to a new species that is better fit for the new Ecos before the very last member of the tribe extinguishes.[CONTINUES HERE]

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Look at the sparkly tambourine ... It's all gonna be Okay.

Thanks for this Gail, suddenly everything seems brighter. Watch the sparkly tambourine.