• All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out.

  • I.F. Stone

donderdag 20 juli 2017

Paul Craig Roberts 280

The Reign of Propaganda

The Reign of Propaganda 
Paul Craig Roberts
If truth has a chance it is in a different country than America.
Masters of propaganda from its inventor, Jewish public relations expert Edward Louis James Bernays, to the Nazi Minister of Propaganda Paul Joseph Goebbels, agree that a lie can be turned into truth by constant repetition.
The more pure the lie, the more complete the success in turning it into The Truth. Lies partly based in fact or half-truths open themselves to factual challenge. For a propagandist the best lie is a lie unfettered by even a distant relationship to truth. Such a lie can be turned into such self-evident truth that no evidence is necessary. As Nikki Haley and Hillary Clinton put it: “Evidence! We don’t need any stinking evidence.  We know Russia hacked our election!
For the typical American, who doesn’t know anything, the confidence of the former Secretary of State and “rightful President of the USA” and the confidence of President Donald Trump’s own Ambassador to the United Nations are sufficient to convince them that the lie that Russia stole the US presidency for Trump is true. We all know it. Why? Because we have all heard it endlessly repeated for many months. As one acquaintance said: “If it were false, surely the media would have exposed it.” This insouciant naivete is characteristic of Western populations.
As Bernays and Goebbels knew, one good propagandist can control the opinion of the targeted group, whether it is a gender or a nation. 
Initially for Benays the targeted group was American women. As a propagandist for an American tobacco company, “the father of spin” promoted female smoking as a sign of feminist independence. He called cigarettes “Torches of Freedom.” He also provided the propaganda that enabled the United Fruit Company to have the US Government overthrow the elected government of Guatemala in 1954. 
Goebbels turned Germans into servants of the Third Reich, an accomplishment the neoconservatives have yet to attain in the United States, but they are still working at it.
The neoconservatives, the military/security complex, the Israel Lobby, and the US presstitutes have succeeded in blocking Trump from withdrawing from Syria and from normalizing relations with Russia. They have succeeded in this by using their fabrication, “Russia-gate,” to put President Trump in a box. If Trump now normalizes relations with Russia, it will be presented to the world by the presstitutes as proof that the Putin/Trump conspiracy against Western democracy is real. If Trump were to normalize relations, thereby removing “the threat” that justifies the power and profit of the military/security complex’s budget, he would likely be impeached as a traitor to the USA. Trump’s tweets would be overwhelmed by the onslaught of the presstitutes.
Americans, British, Europeans, Russians, Chinese, Indians, and everyone else need to understand that Washington’s hostility toward Russia is in the service of powerful interest groups. These interest groups are more powerful than the President of the US. 
Israel and its design on the Middle East is one of these powerful interest groups. As Admiral Tom Moorer, Chief of Naval Operations and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said, “No American president can stand up to Israel.”
The neoconservatives, who serve both the Zionist state of Israel and the US military/security complex, are another of the powerful interest groups that constrain the American government. That the neocons are firmly allied with Israel and the military/security complex increases their power and influence. President Eisenhower warned Americans in 1961 in his last public address to the American people that the power of the military/industrial complex made it a threat to American democracy: https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=Eisenhower%27s+warning+of+the+military%2fsecurity+complex&&view=detail&mid=7E7D9C582D8FB406F8927E7D9C582D8FB406F892&rvsmid=9D891E045120807989A89D891E045120807989A8&fsscr=0&FORM=VDQVAP 
Eisenhower’s warning was 56 years ago. With the President of the United States concerned about the military/industrial complex 56 years ago, try to imagine how much more this power is entrenched after the decades of the Cold War and “Soviet Threat.” The power of the military/security complex is the premier power in Washington.
Eisenhower’s speech is the best speech any American President has ever delivered. It is only 14 minutes and 4 seconds long; yet it covers everything. There is awareness that we can be victims of our own success. Whatever their public position, neoconservatives have no alternative but to hate President Eisenhower with a passion, because he compared the threat to America from the military/industrial complex to the threat from the Soviet Union.
Americans need to wise up, as do the Russians, Chinese, Europeans and everyone else over whom the neoconservatives intend to exercise hegemony regardless of the cost. The total budget of the US military/security complex has been estimated at $1.1 trillion, a figure that is 70% of Russia’s estimated 2017 GDP. It is larger than the GDP of Mexico and Turkey. It is 45% of the GDP of France or England, and 32% of the GDP of Germany. There are 195 countries in the world. Only 14 of them have A Gross Domestic Product larger than the budget of the US military/security complex.
Washington’s wars in the Middle East involve many interests, including mundane ones such as who controls pipeline locations and energy flows. It also involves Israel’s interests. Twice Israel has sent its army into southern Lebanon for the purpose of occupying and annexing the water resources of southern Lebanon, and twice the militia Hezbollah has defeated and driven out the Israeli army, the fighting capability of which is overrated. Hezbollah receives financial and military support from Syria and Iran. Using their neoconservative allies and the orchestrated-by- propaganda American hatred of Muslims, Israel intends to use the US military to put Syria and Iran in the same state of chaos as Iraq and Libya. If deprived of outside support, Hezbollah can finally be defeated by the Israeli army. With Syria and Iran in chaos, the Russophobic neoconservatives can send jihadism into the Russian Federation to break up the biggest constraint on US unilateralism.
If we consider the combined power of these interest groups—the US military/security complex with an annual budget greater than the GDP of most countries, the neoconservatives with their ideology of US world hegemony and alliance with both Democratic and Republican parties, and Israel which has the US government in its pocket and brags about it—how is it possible for President Trump to do as he said he would do and normalize relations with Russia and withdraw from the US interventions in the Middle East? The prospect of Trump succeeding is remote.
If the Russian government fails to understand that President Trump is not the one who is in charge, Russia will be destroyed along with America and the rest of the world.

Nuclear war would set off climate catastrophe

Nuclear war would set off climate catastrophe

July 18, 2017, by Tim Radford

A British nuclear submarine returns to base from the north Atlantic.
Image: LA(Phot) Paul Halliwell/MOD via Wikimedia Commons 
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Even a small nuclear war could end global warming. But it would certainly precipitate catastrophic climate change. 
LONDON, 18 July, 2017 – Four US scientists have just introduced one more good reason not to launch a nuclear war. It would not simply guarantee the mutual destruction of the participants. It would also precipitate catastrophic climate change.
And, they argue in the journal Environment Magazine, even a single nuclear missile strike could darken the skies, chill the atmosphere, stop rainfall, ruin harvests and cost a billion lives.
Observers with memories that stretch back to the Cold War and the arms race between the US and Nato powers on the one hand and the USSR on the other will know something of this already. 
In 1983 the astronomer Carl Sagan and colleagues introduced the idea of global annihilation, or at least the end of human civilisation, in a “nuclear winter” as a consequence of a nuclear weapons exchange. 
Years later, as the Soviet Union collapsed and the Russian Federation was born, the same scientists did their calculations again, and reduced the threat to a kind of “nuclear autumn”.

Nuclear club

Eight nations now possess a nuclear arsenal; the US, Russia and China all have nuclear weapons big enough to precipitate a nuclear calamity, and a ninth, North Korea, now claims to have nuclear capability. 
This prompted researchers and political scientists from the University of Nebraska Lincoln to revisit the question, based on a theoretical study of the effect of one hundred 15-kiloton warheads, with the explosive power of 150,000 tons of TNT. 
Once exploded, such a strike would incinerate 1,300 square kilometres of a city and its surrounds. This would be quite enough to push five million metric tons of black carbon smoke particles into the stratosphere.
This would be enough to screen solar radiation, reduce the agricultural crop season by between 10 and 40 days a year for at least five years, and lower global temperatures to a point lower than normal for at least 25 years.
In the very short term, this cold snap would be colder than anything for the last 1,000 years. Rainfall would decrease by as much as 20% to 80% in the Asian monsoon region.

“Even a conflict that doesn’t involve the United States can impact us and people around the world”

The American southwest and western Australia could become 20% to 60% drier. South America and southern Africa, too, would see less rain. This global “nuclear drought” and the resulting famines “could kill up to a billion people from starvation.” 
The most immediate victims would be those in countries that are already poor or food-insecure. And, the scientists warn, should a warhead fall upon a nuclear power facility “the spread of toxic radionuclides and their long-term effects would be greatly magnified.” 
The drop in precipitation would, they warn, also increase conflict in developing regions,  “although global temperature reduction may reduce social violence in the United States and other developed countries.”
“We’re losing our memory of the Cold War and we’re losing our memory of how important it is to get this right,” said Tyler White, a political scientist concerned with international security and nuclear policy, and one of the authors. 
“Even a conflict that doesn’t involve the United States can impact us and people around the world.” – Climate News Network

Zionist Terror

The children of Nabi Saleh in Israeli prisons: a conversation with Bassem Tamimi

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The demonstrations in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh began in December of 2009. The villagers have been protesting against the theft of a local spring by the nearby illegal Israeli settlement of Halamish, but it has also been a battle against the Occupation in general. The Israeli authorities have responded to the protests in brutal fashion. In addition to three deaths and countless injuries over the years, the treatment of children has been particularly horrifying.
According to Defense for Children International-Palestine, the overall statistics regarding the incarceration of Palestinian children by the occupying forces are staggering:
Israel is the only country in the world that automatically prosecutes children in military courts that lack basic and fundamental fair trial guarantees. Since 2000, at least 8,000 Palestinian children have been arrested and prosecuted in an Israeli military detention system notorious for the systematic ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian children.
Nabi Saleh is no exception in this regard. Since the demonstrations began, there have been 220 arrests, of which roughly 100 have been of minors and, perhaps even more disturbing, there have been 15 arrests of children under the age of 15. One of the latter is Mohammed Fadal Tamimi, aged 14, who is currently in prison.
I met Bassem Tamimi, one of the organizers of the demonstrations, at his home late in the afternoon of July 15. We had arranged the appointment to discuss the situation of the children of the village currently held by the Israeli authorities. Mohammed, Ahmed Shakir Yousef Tamimi, 16, and Ahmed Sami Oudi Tamimi,17, were all arrested on April 24, 2017, and have been in prison ever since.
Ahmed Shakir’s mother, whose older son Mahmoud was also arrested during the raid, has not been allowed to see either of her sons other than during the trial. She joined us during the conversation and explained the circumstances of the violent arrest.
“Roughly 15 soldiers entered our home and asked everybody for their identification. They pushed me away when I tried to give Ahmed some clothes. It was very cold,” she said.
Ahmed Sami is awaiting his second trial, but Ahmed Shakir and Mohammed have already been convicted because of the testimony of a soldier, who claimed he had witnessed the two boys throwing stones. 
“The soldier can say anything he wants to, and the others will believe it,” Bassem Tamimi said to me grimly. 
It is not difficult to understand Tamimi’s lack of faith in the Israeli judicial system. By 2012 he had himself been arrested eleven times by Israeli authorities and had spent three years in administrative detention without ever being charged or tried. In 1993 he was beaten so badly during an interrogation that he lost consciousness for eight days, and following emergency brain surgery, he was placed in solitary confinement for 40 days before being released.
Arrested in 2011, he was held for 13 months before being convicted of organizing illegal protests and urging youths to throw stones at Israeli soldiers. The conviction was based to a large extent on the confession of a minor who had not been permitted access to a lawyer during his interrogation. (An edited video, given to the Associated Press by activists, showed an interrogator shouting at the boy, telling him to admit that Bassem had urged him to throw stones.) 
The trial had garnered international attention and had been attended by European diplomats. European Union Foreign Affairs Chief Catherine Ashton revealed her concerns about the fairness of the trial and stated that “the EU considers Bassem Tamimi to be a ‘human rights defender’ committed to non-violent protest against the expansion of an Israeli settlement on lands belonging to his West Bank village.”

The Tamimi family rushes an Israeli soldier pinning a Mohammed “Abu Yazan” Tamimi, then 12, during a demonstration in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, near Ramallah, August 28, 2015. (Photo: Mohamad Torokman/Reuters)
Palestinians try to avoid tear gas fired by Israeli soldiers during clashes which erupted after the funeral of Palestinian Mustafa Tamimi in the West Bank town of Nabi Saleh, Sunday, Dec. 11, 2011. Tamimi, 28, was hurling rocks at an Israeli military vehicle on Friday in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh when a soldier inside opened the rear door and fired a tear gas canister at him from just a few yards away, witnesses said. He was taken to an Israeli hospital, where he died of his injuries on Saturday. (Photo: Issam Rimawi/APA Images)
Ahmed Shakir and Mohammed are scheduled to be released during the next two weeks, subject to the payment of a $834 (3,000 NIS) fine for each of them, but the fate of Ahmed Sami has not yet been determined. 
Most of the discussion with Bassem Tamimi was somber, but the interview ended because of a happy occasion, the wedding of a villager that Tamimi and his wife hurried off to attend. What we did not know at the time was that another victim would be added to the list of deaths mere hours later. Israeli forces would enter the village before dawn and shoot Amr Ahmad Khalil, 34, from the adjacent village of Kafr Ein, during a raid conducted to detain him. He was a suspect in a drive-by shooting north of Ramallah.
About Richard Hardigan
Richard Hardigan is a university professor based in California. He is currently writing a book entitled "The Other Side of the Wall" based on his experience in the occupied Palestinian territory. His website is http://richardhardigan123.w ixsite.com/mysite. You can follow him on Twitter at @RichardHardigan.
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The Price for Criticizing Israel - by Dennis J. Bernste

In this piece, Bernstein writes about the interview and the issues it raises:
The Price for Criticizing Israel - by Dennis J. Bernstein

Interview with John Pilger


An In-Depth Conversation With John Pilger

Audio Player

Paleontologist Peter Ward on What Past Mass Extinctions Can Teach Us

‘The Models Are Too Conservative’: Paleontologist Peter Ward on What Past Mass Extinctions Can Teach Us About Climate Change Today

A shipwreck in the Namib desert on the Skeleton Coast of Namibia. Photo: Wolfgang Steiner/Getty Images/iStockphoto
This week, to accompany our cover story on worst-case climate scenarios, we’re publishing a series of extended interviews with climatologists on the subject — most of them from the “godfather generation” of scientists who first raised the alarm about global warming several decades ago. 
Peter Ward is one of the paleontologists responsible for overturning our understanding of most of the Earth’s mass extinctions, which, long thought to be caused by asteroid impacts, turned out to have been the result of climate change produced by greenhouse gases (all but the one that killed the dinosaurs, anyway). We spoke the day after Donald Trump announced the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris climate accords. 
Peter Ward: I wrote an op-ed for the Post, I don’t know if they’ll publish it. Probably calling Trump a war criminal was a bit much. Anyway how can I help you?
Honestly, what I’d love from you, and what would be most helpful, is if you could first walk me through the analogy you made in that op-ed — exactly how our current situation could lead to the end-Permian Extinction. 
My own sense in the short run — strangely enough, the most dangerous thing facing us isn’t the extinction scenario, since that’s centuries in the future. What scares me more is the economic effect of simple sea-level rise. CNN did a very interesting article some years ago about how much it would cost to retrofit ports around the world for a six-foot sea-level rise. It’s literally trillions of dollars. Not only docks, but every airport facing the ocean—Sydney, China, San Francisco especially.
Secondly there’s the effect on human food. If there’s a six-foot sea-level rise, it’s astonishing how much food will be wiped out — most rice is in low-lying areas, for instance.
That’s in the short term — what about the long term?
The long term is these greenhouse extinctions are devastating. The most recent one was the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, and that was caused almost entirely by methane. So the scariest thing we’re seeing today is the liberation of methane from higher latitudes, and it’s happening far faster than anybody ever predicted.
Did you see the news about the Larsen ice shelf? It’s starting to break off. I spent four expeditions down there, just to the north of that, and the amount of retreat is huge. The reason this is important is Antarctica has always been used by the naysayers to say, At least in Antarctica we’re not seeing retreating glaciers. Well, now we are — we really are.
And it seems as though the IPCC predictions have been relatively on-target on emissions and warming, that the predictions on ice loss have been far too conservative, and things are happening much faster than anybody expected.
Absolutely. One thing about IPCC is that the modelers have yet to figure out how to deal with cloud cover. It’s very difficult to predict. As you’re going to get more water vapor in the atmosphere, you’re obviously going to get more cloud cover. That’s where the models are still breaking down. It will take an enormous amount of mathematical work.
And if anything the sea-level estimates have been underestimates. More than anything else, the ice sheets really control our fates — and Greenland, of course. If we melt all the ice, we get at least 140 meters and probably more — Greenland is 15 meters by itself.
But one of the scariest places on Earth is right off Namibia. When I give a slideshow on global warming and past extinctions, the killer we’re seeing is hydrogen sulfide. And right now there is something called the Skeleton Coast off Namibia, and the reason is that we’re seeing hydrogen sulfide coming right out of the ocean. The final part of a greenhouse extinction is when that happens worldwide.
But the worst place on Earth has to be Bangladesh. They are doomed.
And it’s such a densely populated place.
Absolutely. As you know, as the sea level rises, it’s like a diving board for storm surge. You’re causing storm surge to jump ever farther inland, and that in itself means huge inundation from storm surge — it doesn’t have to be the rise to destroy the crops. It’s just a bad, bad situation.
Well, walk me through some of the other things you’re worrying about. Food seems like one part of the doomsday picture, but what else are you concerned about?
Well, heat.
I believe that there are going to be some places that become uninhabitable for humans.
How big a portion of the world’s surface do you think that kind of effect will hit?
Certainly Australia. Australia will be deemed uninhabitable. Already Australia — the outback produces not much in the way of crops. But there are kangaroos. I lived in Adelaide, and I’ve lived through some heat before, but we had 40 degrees centigrade, and 42 and 43 for weeks on end. It really has an effect. You get depressed, you don’t want to go procreate because it’s too damn hot. You just can’t escape it.
Everywhere you go on the equator, there is some sort of drug — for the human population to try to get through the day. How do you get through living on the equator? It’s so damn miserable. So I think the equator will become uninhabitable. We don’t do well in heat.
In your mind, what is our likely warming ceiling — where do you think we’re heading, and where do you think the range of uncertainty around that is?
I’m not a modeler, so I’m not the most prescient to do this, but we certainly could hit 5 degrees centigrade in the next century if we consider the status quo path. Coal is still amazingly cheap. Australia still exports coal. Coal continues to be a major problem. The simple fact is, you have 9 billion people, and the standard of living is increasing, so they’re all going to want automobiles, they’re all going to want steel and iron. And in order to produce that, you need to have sources of energy — huge sources of energy. I don’t see wind turbines powering great steel mills. And as India and China become ever greater consumers of consumer goods, this is what’s going to drive it, I think.
To me, it’s been striking how much the green energy sources are growing and how much the prices are falling — much faster than most prognosticators were predicting a few years ago.
But it’s also the case that there are all these warming feedback loops that are already in motion. And if some of them get sped up quickly then there’s almost nothing we can do to counteract those effects. 
You’re absolutely right. I’ve seen something, maybe as much as 10 percent, maybe as much as 15 percent of carbon may be coming from sources we don’t even know about. These methane clathrates may be having a huge significance. They are not being modeled. And we really are going to have unintended consequences and much more rapid heating than even the models say — for the simple reason that the models are highly conservative, too conservative.
We’ve talked about food, we’ve talked about flooding and sea-level rise, we’ve talked about direct heat effects. Are there other sorts of broad categories of things you’re worried about? 
Disease — one of the great killers that people are not recognizing is dengue fever. Malaria gets all the press, HIV of course. But dengue is increasing. The mosquitoes themselves are obviously speciating and becoming ever more immune to pesticides, because we’ve had these jumping genes.
Jumping genes?
What people are not really understanding is that genes can jump from species to species very easily. My 19th book, actually, is called Lamarck’s Revenge, the story of epigenetics. My unique new take is epigenetics in the history of life. The reason we get these outpourings of new body types in the aftermath of mass extinctions is not Darwinian — it’s too slow. Epigenetics occur when there is environmental change. It works for microbes all the way up.
And so we can expect much more rapid changes in microbial genetics. I think the mode of evolution is going to switch from this random slow Darwinian to a much more rapid form.
And you mentioned a few minutes ago the runaway effects. Can you walk me through exactly what we should be looking out for, most worried about, on that possible track? How does a runaway greenhouse effect get started on this planet?
Let’s say we have a deep ocean basin off California and it’s not getting its cold-water oxygen because the surface water isn’t water — warm water holds less oxygen than cold water. So any ocean that is warmer is going to be less oxygenated.
And once you switch over to zero oxygen, the microbes that were down there, and the anaerobic microbes start taking over. And as these things take over, you get this black sea effect, and it begins spreading out, and more and more of these microbes start producing hydrogen sulfide. So as it starts spreading, it grows — like cancer. Cancer of the deep ocean. They start spilling over the deep basin and start moving up — that’s called a chemocline. And we’re seeing the first part of this in the Pacific.
Are these effects confined to the ocean?
Well, hydrogen sulfide does come out of ocean. This is why Namibia is so scary.
What else?
One of my Ph.D.s just finished his study on sea-grass die-out. We’re losing sea grass globally, and it’s a huge economic blow. And it’s definitely caused by global warming. Why is it important? Because most seafood spends some time, as juveniles, dining on sea grass. An article on sea grass die-out itself would be huge.
Tell me about your background and how you came to study mass extinctions generally, but also when you came to think of them in terms of our present day.
I was really just a classically trained paleontologist. To me, the mass extinctions were really interesting in terms of what happens after them — we have this dead period, and the recovery fauna is totally different. And that leads to the idea of, Gee, how much longer will the recovery be if we have an extinction now?
Impact was key, and king, for the 1980s and 1990s — every one of the big extinctions was attributed to impact. But it became clear that, in fact, no, these were not impact extinctions. We had to invent a new term. I don’t know who came up with it first, but I was in there pretty early calling them greenhouse extinctions.
And this new paradigm started coming into play. We’re even starting to see that KT also has a greenhouse component — because there was warming right at the impact.
Tell me more about the Permian Extinction, because that’s the most dramatic. I wonder what makes it so exceptional and in what ways we can watch out for our heading down that same path.
People always think the intensity of a mass extinction should be related to the extinction — what percentage of creatures were extinct. Increasingly, we’re thinking that’s a metric, but a more important metric that tells you something about the nature of the devastation is how different is the fauna that comes afterward.
I think people really don’t appreciate how much, over the coming decades, nature will be at war with the way that we live.
Absolutely. Absolutely. Look at the storms that are taking place now. You talk about habitability. I’ve been talking about heat. At what point do hurricanes in the tropics make living there just not worth it? You’re being mowed down by these huge number of tornadoes. Sooner or later people are going to get the hell out of Dodge. But this is the sort of storm ferocity that’s coming.
And we’re sort of used to the idea that parts of the world are more prone to things like hurricanes, as part of the cost of living in the Caribbean or whatever. But it seems like those events are going to become much more common still in those areas, but there are also events that are going to become much more common in all the areas where one might flee to from there. So there’s a risk of our running out of safe spaces — nothing is going to be protected from extreme weather.
The best case to look at is in the Philippines. That last couple of typhoons they’ve had — the ferocity and the increase in those things that’s been happening. That’s the model for what’s coming. It isn’t anything [like that] in the Caribbean; as brutal as those hurricanes can be, they have nothing on these typhoons.
Looking at recent weather history, are there things that stand out as harbingers?
Well, with the warming you get less and less snowfall in the winter. And one of the areas that’s really being hit hardest right now are the low countries of Europe. Because the Alps used to get all this snow. People think the Dutch worry most about the dikes and the floods. But no longer. The Alps are having ever lower snowfall, and you get these enormous storms, so we’re getting an increasing rainfall, and that in itself is a gigantic human problem. Obviously floods — the increased flooding caused by ever more water in the atmosphere is going to be really as bad as storms. We’ll get these floods all over the planet. And the problem is twofold: They kill people, but they also wash away the soil.
One thing we haven’t really talked about is fresh water and the coming threat there — the water scarcity threat.
Absolutely. I really do think we’re going to see … The flash points appear, to me, to be China, India, and Pakistan fighting over the water coming from the Himalayas. Water will be the great fight. Water and food will be the two things that the 21st century will fight over.
How do you see those fights playing out?
It’s going to be the haves versus the have-nots, as is always the case. But the places that have the highest rates of human population growth are those where water might be most crucial. Nigeria has a huge growth rate, but it’s Tunisia and Egypt and Algeria that give Africa its enormous population growth. These are countries in which waters are being reduced. This is where we have this ever-increasing jihad that is going to be driven not so much by being mad at religion but just trying to get along, and cranky angry people in huge numbers are filling up …
Tunisia used to be the granary of Rome — Carthage kept Rome going! I’ve been to Tunisia, and boy you don’t see much wheat there anymore. You see the Sahara moving ever farther north, and reducing crop yields, just as human population is increasing there.
It’s all pretty bleak.
Yeah, it is. We need to slow human population growth. But our White House is doing everything it can to make sure climate change happens. It’s strange I have a longing for the Bush years — I thought nothing could be worse, but now those are the good old days!
The places that are going to be hit hardest by climate change are the places where his voters are — the Midwest, the Dust Bowl states. Which means the anger that elected him is going to continue.
Big-picture question: A while ago, Stephen Hawking made some headlines by saying that in order for humanity to survive we had to figure out a way to colonize at least one planet within 100 years. How reasonable do you find that kind of warning, or how insanely alarmist?
Well, he may be the smartest guy on the planet, but boy, I just think this is inane. My sense of it is, with our technology, we’re just too good, we can engineer and keep some part of us alive on Earth. The only way out of it would be a wholesale nuclear exchange. But barring that, a greenhouse world won’t kill us all off. If worse comes to worst, we’ll have gas masks. But what I would advocate is — just like that seed vault, in Norway, that there should be hundreds of thousands of frozen eggs, human eggs, that are taken off-planet. This could just be an orbiting facility carrying seed stock itself. But colonizing Mars? Why? There’s lots of areas that would be easier to put a dome over on Earth than it would be on Mars, because at least you can breathe the air. That alone!
Humans will never be able to send off a colony, a breeding colony, to another star system. The only way you could do this is to send fertilized eggs.

But one possibility is we are stuck here. And if you look at the Fermi paradox, it could be that lots of organisms are stuck on their planets because the galaxy has not been colonized.
I’ve been doing these web talks with NASA people. One of the really interesting concepts around the Fermi paradox is the Great Filter — that civilizations rise, but there’s an environmental filter that causes them to die off again, and disappear fairly quickly. If you look at planet Earth, the filtering we’ve had has been in these mass extinctions.
I think that’s about it from me. Thank you.
It’s been a fun talk. Go get ’em, man. We need people out there like you. I mean it. Though you’re not going to get thanked for it, you know.