St. Edward's University transcript
The following is the bulk of the
transcript from Dr. Eric Pianka's speech at St.
Edward's University on Friday, March 31, 2006.
We are attempting to locate the audio from some sections
of the speech to complete the transcript The Gazette-Enterprise also hopes
to make the audio of the presentation available in the near future.
The great North American saltgrass
prairie and we just took it and turned it all into agricultural lands. We
exterminated the bison, wiped out the Indians, totaled the prairie dogs and
those black-faced ferrets. We just erased an eco-system. Now this is very
nice for Americans because that rich topsoil has allowed us to grow food
and we can feed ourselves and the rest of the world and we've grown fat and
apathetic and miserable as a result of it. We've lost the bison we've
lost an awful lot and we'll never be able to recover.
So this is what I want to talk about and this is very
doomsday and I'm gonna go down, down, down, down,
down and then I'm gonna try to come up just a
little bit (up) at the end if I have time.
The book of life: The question can we read it? Will we
be allowed to try to read it? I'm finding that I am no longer allowed to do
things that I used to be able to do because as we have taken all the
habitats and imperiled all the other species, other species have become so
scarce that they have to be protected and I'm afraid its not too long
before I won't be able to touch a lizard in the wild. And then finally, do
we have enough time? I think the time has almost run out on us here and I'm
gonna come back to that.
The biggest enemy we face is anthropocentrism. This is
that common human attitude that everything on this earth was put here for
our use to be used any way we want. An example of an anthropocentric
human is an 18-year-old man with a chain saw with a four-inch bar cutting
down a redwood tree that's a thousand years old. That is audacity and that
is anthropocentrism and that is an evil, evil thing.
As I told you, I like lizards as much or more than Phil
and Al like their animals. I live up in the hills about 35 miles west of
Austin. We have a tradition out there we moved out before anybody else
but now it's turned into a bedroom of Austin (a bedroom community of
Austin). All kinds of people move out in the hills and bring their mobile
homes and their security lights and their cats and dogs and they're trying
to avoid the high taxes in Austin so there's a horrible, horrendous commute
with new stoplights going in everywhere.
The city of Dripping Springs has had to build three new
schools because of this and it's turned into a little suburb of Austin. And
everything has gone down. Folks, when you meet your new neighbors it's
usually over a fence so I've got a fence a barbed wire fence and my
neighbors come up and say "Hi, who are you what are you doing out
here?" And I introduce myself, and they want to know what I how I
make my living and I tell them and then I start to plead with them.
I point out that there used to be a lot of lizards and a
lot of snakes living in these hills and that they're all disappearing
because of this approaching urbanization. I plead with them not to let
their cats and dogs run loose cats are born killers. They let dogs run
loose so they can play with the deer. Well you can't do that dogs are
wolves they pack up and they kill things. And they don't belong out
there. Another thing people do is put out feeders for birds. And that
brings in the urban birds so blue jays and things that shouldn't be out
there replace the scrub jays that should be there. I've seen rattlesnakes
One of these new [inaudible] came up to me when I pleaded
with them about not letting their cats kill lizards one of these women
made a huge mistake she looks at me and she said "what good are
I looked at her in the eye and said "what good are
I thought at first the family would hate me forever but
after one day when she was gone invited me down for a drink and they all
congratulated me and said this was exactly what she needed to be told.
Now, what ecologists want and need is access to vital
organisms and semi-pristine environments because these are the places to
which they've evolved and to which they're adapted. It don't make any sense
if they're not in their natural habitat.
people call me all the time and want to see
a rattlesnake. They don't want to see a wild rattlesnake; they want to see
one behind glass. A rattlesnake in cage might as well be dead as far as I'm
concerned. It doesn't have a natural habitat. It doesn't make any sense. I
don't know where it evolved or what it's adapted to; I don't know anything
about it. It's as if you took a D.H. Lawrence novel out and a pair of
scissors and started cutting the word "love" out every time you
saw it and putting the little "loves" in jars. You don't know if
they're verbs or nouns, you don't know who loves who; it's completely out
of context. And that's the trouble with animals in zoos. They don't have
any ecologies anymore.
[Garbled speech, followed by laughter]
But I told you Thoreau is responsible for this metaphor
and uh I think there's two sides to this. We have to face the vanishing
book, but we also have to read it. And my point as a as a biologist is any
fool can help save it. There's tree-huggers galore out there and
conservation people that just want to save the planet. Any fool can do
that. But it takes somebody who's dedicated and earnest and crazy to do
what Phil and Al and I can do and try to go out and read it and try to make
sense of it. That's what we should do if we have the skills to do it. We
should try to read it before it's gone. And I don't see any point in trying
to save anything unless biologists are allowed access to it. I think that
is a critical point here.
Now I'm going to talk a little bit on conservation biology
in a minute. There's a picture of Walter Olsten III and here's the
(inaudible) this was published about 15 years ago in I think in BioScience. And, uh, he didn't take the analogy quite
as far as I did, but I really like it.
Now for some of you some of these things wont seem like
they're new but I'm pretty old and I remember when faxes first came out and
I was working in Australia and I wanted to send something to Texas to
Austin and I had a new fax machine. It was going in in
Australia, and I could see it in now-time coming out in Austin, and to me
that was technology unbelievable beyond belief. And I'm still hoping
they'll figure out how to fax me back and forth [laughter] and avoid the
plane trip and all the rest.
We've got technology now that is just out of this world. I
started using the Net before it was Internet, before we talked about email,
it was called the Arpanet back then and, uh, what I'm finding now with
email is that I can have colleagues anywhere in the world and we can work
really fast because if there in Australia, when I'm asleep they're working,
when I'm working they're asleep, so we're working 24 hours around the clock
and we can fax stuff back and forth and email things back and forth, papers
just rolling out.
So, of all these things there's a list, the short list
there, of all the new things that are here that we didn't have or some of
them. Uh, one of 'em that I really wish had been
around earlier was GPS cause when I was out collecting before lizards were
gone from large parts of the geographic ranges all I got was 15 miles
north-northwest of Mojave, California, and I had to go look at a map and
try to make Latitude and Longitude. It would have been so much nicer to
have a little GPS and been able to record these things accurately; but it's
really now too late because we've erased big chunks of information.
A couple of my North American study sites I've gone back
to and they were just crawling, just teaming with lizards only 40 or 45
years ago, and now there are parts of little cities, trailer parks and
there's not a lizard to be found. So the collections I made back then that
are in storage in museums are really fossils. They represent what was there
before humans took the habitat. To me that is shocking. It makes those
collections pretty valuable, too.
So, conservation biology I'm not saying I don't approve
of it I'm saying we need it but I'm saying those of you who consider
yourself a rabid conservation biologist, please, please, please allow
biologist access to the book of life. That's one of the main reasons for
Conservation biology is a crisis discipline. It's an
emergency and it's a man-made emergency. We wouldn't need it if we hadn't
ravaged this earth and taken over so much of its surface. Right now, we are
using half of the earth's surface land surface. Right now, we are using
more than half of the available fresh water. Right now, we are using half
of the solar energy that hinges on the land surface of the earth. That is
shocking. One species is taking half of everything there is for it's greedy
So, in physiology we have surgery that's an emergency
response to how to handle physiology somebody's dying you take them
to surgery. And political science war is the equivalent. When you have an
emergency in political science you go to war. That's what conservation
biology is it's a crisis discipline and it's man-made just like war
It actually is more than just biology because it bridges
the gap to the social sciences, and I think we have to start thinking in
terms of the ethics of what we do with this earth. We should have started
thinking about it a long time ago.
So here are some of the things conservation biologists are
interested in they're worried about making reserves, identifying
endangered species, uh, helping to prevent things that are teetering on the
edge of extinction from going extinct, and all sorts of things. And this is
highly funded in large parts of the world but I don't consider this
ecology it's applied ecology. It's not reading the book, it's just all
leaning towards trying to save what little is left.
Money has to be spent on that.
Now, when I was a little boy I spent hours and hours
looking through Audubon's Birds of the World. I remember looking at this
passenger pigeon the last passenger pigeon she died in a Cincinnati zoo
in 1914. And as a little boy I couldn't believe it, cause I read the text
it said the sky was blackened with billions of these birds flying over. And
then I read further and found out that humans and their greed went up to
their nests and clubbed the babies and pickled them and shipped them off to
Europe to be eaten as squabs. And they did this a few seasons and they
managed to stop the reproduction of this species and effectively drive it
extinct in just a very short time a few years.
We did the same thing with the Carolina parakeet, and of
course we thought [garbled] we thought we did with the ivory-billed
woodpecker, but now found out that we were really lucky that a few managed
to hang on somewhere. And I bet right now bird watchers out there are
having fits trying to add the ivory-billed to their lifes list.
Rhinos: When I first went to Africa to study lizards,
rhinos were still fairly abundant and they hadn't been savaged by humans.
There's a bunch of species of rhinos and now they are all endangered, uh,
and this is because some myth that came out of Asia that rhinoceros horns
were a good aphrodisiac and a rhinoceros horn can be worth like ten
The way this works is that people in power convince poor
people that could never make any money in their whole life because they
live in Africa and they're in third world countries and poor blacks that if
they could get them a rhino horn they'll pay them a thousand dollars, which
is more than he could make in his whole life. Then the guy gives him a gun
and if the poacher succeeds he buys it for a thousand dollars, takes it to
Europe or Asia, grinds it up and markets it for tens or hundreds of
thousands of dollars. I think its time to switch to Viagra.
Anyway, if you look at this you can see the little black
spots, which are the only places you can find rhinos. They're virtually
gone from most of the geographic range.
This is the way we treat everything. This is the
geographic range of the American bison a very beautiful animal found from
Buffalo, New York, all the way to Sierra-Nevada in the original, uh, before
the 1800's would quickly, quickly culled these huge herds. I wish I had
time to read quotes about bison thundering all through the day and all
through the night. They called it prairie thunder. But that's gone and
that's gone for good, and you're not going to see it in your lifetime; and
that's a loss. When they built the Trans-continental Railroad people would
buy a ticket and get a gun and load it with big slugs and shoot bison as
they rode across the continent from through the Great Plains. And you can
see they really split the bison herd into northern herd and southern herd.
One of the generals, I think it was Sheridan said, that
the bison hunters had done more to control the American Indian than all the
cavalry put together. We basically starved a lot of American Indians out
those that we didn't kill instantly with smallpox and measles. We stole
this continent from other people. We just took it.
I have a herd of bison. I think they are absolutely
magnificent animals. Uh, that's my herd bull, Lucifer, at the bottom left.
He stands six feet tall and weighs about twenty-six hundred pounds and when
Lucifer wants to he goes over the fence and when he does (I've never seen
it) but I think the earth must shudder at this spot for a millisecond.
Here's some more things that we should think about: We
have to get off our anthropocentric high horse. Biodiversity has a value
beyond how it can be used by humans. Other things on this earth have been
here longer than us much, much longer and they have a right to this planet
too. And that includes wasps that sting you, ants that bite you, scorpions
it includes wolves and wolverines and all kinds of things that we have
pushed to very brink of extinction.
I'm not going to have time to talk about these things that
concern conservation biologists but I just wanted to point out one that's
kind of pathetic and that's the minimum viable population size how low
can we go and still have something this is pathetic.
One conservation biologist coined the term
"extinction vortex" and he said as we drive things down, down,
down so that the populations get precariously low all kinds of factors come
together to sweep them down to extinction and these are all manmade
things. We stole their habitat. We fragmented their habitat. We've knocked
the population sizes down to the point where, uh, genetic variability
disappears and, of course, toxic pollution.
We're more worried now about toxic pollution as it affects
us. It's causing cancers and all kinds of neat things. But we ought to be
worried about it as it applies to everything on this earth. And now, of
course, people are finally, finally just now beginning to be aware, as we
have savaged the atmosphere to the point that the planet is changing.
It's just a matter of time until the planet changes really
bad. Some meteorological people have models that show thresholds where it
shifts just instantly overnight. What I'm waiting for is when you go to the
supermarket and there are no more Triscuits on
the shelves and you say to yourself, "Hey, where did Triscuit come from, anyway."
We've lost touch with the reality of where food comes
from. We're completely mislead. It's just a commodity that's bought and
sold and people make money on it. You've got to think, you've got to think
and remember, humans were hunter/gatherers not that long ago and I think
we're gonna to be again very soon.
One of the things we do is deforest everything cut down
trees to burn to keep ourselves warm, build boats or houses. And
deforestation is really bad in most places on the planet. The U.S. is kind
of fortunate we have the luxury of trees because we got into coal and
fossil fuels early and managed to keep ourselves warm and in this case
air-conditioned without cutting down too many trees.
There's an oasis in the Sahara desert out in the middle of
nowhere in Northern Africa that had three trees. It was called tres arboles in Arabic, and I
say tres arboles
because I know you speak Spanish. But some sucker cut the trees down so it
is still on the map, its still an oasis, but there ain't
three trees there anymore. One cold night, one selfish homo cut them down.
Oh, I just wanted to comment on these two beautiful
lizards, which are endemic to Madagascar. Madagascar is one of the places
that I really want to go before I die because it has all these endemics on
it split off from mainland Africa like a hundred million years ago and it's
got all kinds of things that are found nowhere else on the earth and yet
the people of Madagascar are third-world starving over-populated eating
There's an endangered land tortoise in Madagascar that's
like protected on the world's list of don't do anything to this turtle and
it's commonly used for turtle soup by poor people in Madagascar.
This is to illustrate habitat fragmentation. The picture
on the upper left is the way this square mile of woods and things in
Wisconsin looked when humans first got there. It was forested with a little
piece of prairie in the southwestern corner. The prairie burned every year
(prairie fires) and over time the prairie built up these deep black top
soils, which are nourishing our nation today. Now the first thing settlers
did was cut the trees down as you can see. In a little over a century this
turned into just wood lots. Now you can imagine the effects this had on
whatever lived in that forest.
Here's an example from Borneo. This is what we are doing
to this planet. Wood has become very valuable and we're just clear-cutting
anything that's left. Think about this.
One of the problems with fragmentation is that you lose
core habitat. In that scene that I showed you from Wisconsin back in the
1830s before humans got there, there was only a little tiny bit of edge
between the prairie and the forest. And cowbirds approached the edge. Cowbirds
are really parasites. They lay their eggs in the nests of other birds. Uh,
cowbirds used to be very scarce in North America and with our habitat
fragmentation their populations have just boomed and the only place that
small songbirds like warblers can lay their eggs to get away from these
parasitic cowbirds is deep in the forest. So if you have tiny little
patches there's no place that a small songbird can get away from cowbirds.
So now cowbirds are very abundant, small birds are heavily parasitized and
their populations are on the brink of going extinct because of our clearing
and habitat fragmentation.
This is testimony to our (inaudible). This is a Texas
company you might have heard of Freeport-McMoRan. Uh, they have formed an
alliance with the Indonesian officials, and they're taking gold and copper
off the top of this mountain in Papua, Indonesia. They've stripped off most
of the top of that mountain and they ship it down the side to be sent back
to the, uh, places where they extract the gold and copper in great big
slurry tubes. It's like ten feet in diameter. It goes down to the sea where
there's boats to haul it away.
Then you can see the damage it's doing. It's causing
mudslides on the sides of the mountain and these are polluting all the
streams down below. There were native tribes living in the lowlands of New
Guinea that lived off these beautiful, clear streams with fish and
crustaceans and food of all sorts that now can't get anything because the
streams are clogged with mud from dirt from Freeport McMoRans
mining on the top of the mountain.
A bunch of these people that are being dispossessed by
this big, fat company on top of the mountain broke into one of their shacks
and got some dynamite and some primers and they blew up the slurry tube.
And I remember hearing Freeport McMoRans CEO
complaining (this is Jim Bob Moffett at the time) that it was costing his
company a million dollars a day not to have that slurry tube open.
They've been doing it for ten years. They've been taking a
million dollars a day out of there for ten years. And when they get done
with this mountain, they'll move to the next one behind it.
This is the scariest graphic that you're ever gonna see in your whole life take a good look at it.
We hit six billion not very long ago and now we hit six and a half and
we're still going, roaring. This kind of population growth is unsustainable
and has to stop.
Now I'm gonna try to prove that
Paul Ehrlich, in the 1960s, wrote a book, The Population
Bomb, calling attention to this. Nobody paid any attention to poor old
Paul. And I hear people even today saying, "Oh, Ive heard you
doomsday ecologists before. We've still got water, there's no
problems." They're so stupid and short-sighted.
Here's China. How would you like to live there? Look at
all those little window A/Cs. They've got power. (Garbled). Humans can be
packed in. There's China. You want to live like a termite? Are we termites?
Come on. I want to be up on top of the hill where that chair is and I want
to have some space around me.
Now cartoonists have had fun with this. People don't seem
to care. We still allow you people to have more than two kids. Our tax
system is completely backwards. We encourage you. We give you a discount
for having kids. You should have to pay more when you have your first kid
you pay more taxes. When you have your second kid you pay a lot more taxes,
and when you have your third kid you don't get anything back, they take it
all. Our tax system is bad; it's backwards.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife recently released caribou off
the islands off of Alaska to help the Eskimos, the Aleuts, get protein. And
the herds from these islands there were several islands all grew
exponentially just like the human population's been growing for quite a few
years and then they ate everything they could eat and the populations
This is what's going to happen to us. This is gonna happen in your lifetime. Does that look like fun?
Do you want to go there? You've gone there. We waited too long.
Here's a checklist from Genesis. We checked all the boxes
except one. We have dominion over the fish and the fowl and everything that
moveth on this earth but we forgot, forgot to
replenish it. We just shriveled it up like that little dried up raisin that
you see down in the bottom we're sucking everything we can out of it and
turning it into fat human biomass.
Cartoonists (inaudible) this and probably shouldn't use
this cause I never asked them their permission, but I think I can get away
with it in a talk. I can't believe myself when (inaudible) buy a hotdog.
The looks I'm getting everyone knows what these are made of (inaudible).
Hope you enjoy your meat. There goes another rainforest.
(Garbled) Maybe if I stand still. Look at me standing hear
spewing out CO2.
Everyone of us is guilty everything we do, every breath
you take, every time you flush the toilet, every time you drive your car,
every time you buy anything we all contribute to the mess of pollution on
this earth. In many cases you don't even know what you're doing.
And of course I want to single out CO2 because this is
really turning out to be a big thing that could really spell out our demise
sooner maybe than people think or realize. The government doesn't want you
to know about this. CO2 has just risen steadily and it's way, way above
normal levels, and it's manmade its from our burning fossil fuels mostly,
but also from cutting down forests and burning them up.
So this has caused global warming, and it's changing our
climates and we don't know but some speculation it might be affecting
things like hurricanes and of course the more humans you pack in on the
surface of the earth the more of these things are going to decimate the
I don't need to tell you about that.
But, I'm a little bit more concerned about things like
polar bears. Now, we take the polar bear because it's a big, warm fuzzy
that the WWF cares about, but everybody thinks polar bears are nice and it
would be a shame to lose them. These things require ice and ice flows.
They're arctic adapted animals, and as the ice flows melt some people are
thinking that it might be the end of the polar bear.
And, of course, those of you that haven't thought an
inkling about this think, Oh, we'll just keep them; we'll have them in
zoos and have the air conditioning turned way down.
And I remind you that they are not wild polar bears; they
are like love in a box.
So the global climate is changing, and now I come back now
to Paul Ehrlich. I said this was going to go down, down, down and I meant
Ehrlich in the 60s said, if humans don't have the
political will to control their own population, microbes will control it
for us. Now I want to remind you of 1300 when the "black death"
swept down from China and one-third of the world's population died.
We killed off an awful lot of indigenous new-world people
with smallpox and measles. Which were things that white humans in Europe
were adapted to because we lived with them, but the people that made it
across the Bering Strait could not cope and a lot of those (inaudible)
because of that. We're going to see this again.
The microbes are smaller, and they reproduce really fast
have generation times measured in minutes or less. They evolve really
quickly, and we can't keep up with them. We are doomed. The microbes are
going to get us. We are, we are a great big immerging substrate just
waiting for microbes to grow on us. And even though we are still homo sapiens
you know what sapiens means, it means smart I'd say we're not. I'd say
we're dumb because we're letting our population grow just like bacteria
grow on an agar plate until they've reached the limits; and that's dumb.
So to try to convince you that population deregulation
if you want to use this (garbled) for example where you plot the
percentage changes of population versus population density. And when the
populations are large they tend to decrease and when the populations are
small they tend to increase. So to get a negative slope on our progression
on those data points it says population (inaudible) through population
Now, this is one example. I want to summarize a hundred or
some in this table. Most of these studies are done with birds. Birds have
been studied to death because humans like 'em and
I dont know all the rest uh, but there's a few invertebrates on here.
And to the right you see the significantly negative regressions, like the
one I just showed you; and to the left are the positive ones. The vast
majority of these are negative. Half of them at least are significantly
negative, and two-thirds of them are negative.
There's one exception far, far off to the left one
species out of these one hundred and thirty-eight that thinks it can
violate the rules of the natural world that thinks it can grow indefinitely
and that's us homo is bad.
The Web is such a wonderful place. You, just, if you don't
know what to do if you want to say something. I thought, what would really
jostle the audience? And I thought of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,
and so I typed that in [snap] somebody spent days painting this. (Noise)
funny little with a skull on its head. Its death. This is what awaits us
I just love the Web. [Laughter] All I did was type in
"skull," and this came up. Think about it.
Think about everything I've said and more.
This is an AIDS infected piece of a human. Each of those
little round things is an HIV virulent that can infect a new human. Basically,
they use their T-cells to they make copies of themselves.
HIV is a pandemic spread worldwide. It's increasing in
frequency in a lot of places and it's a big concern to everybody. But, it's
not gonna be the one that gets us cause HIV is
too slow, it lets us live several years so it can pass itself on to new
Uh, it's no good, it's too slow.
Now when you get to these viruses Ebola Zaire has
potential. It kills nine out of ten humans. It's never gotten out of Africa
cause its so virulent it kills everybody before they can move. I mean it
kills you within a day or two.
Uh, you can only catch Ebola Zaire by contact with a human
that's infected. It causes you to bleed. It breaks capillaries and you
bleed out your orifices and if you go out and touch somebody who's sick
with it you get it and you die, too or nine times out of ten.
Ebola-Reston did get out of Africa and to the U.S. in the
form of green monkeys that were imported for medical research and it's
named after Reston, West Virginia where they have quarantine facility for
these monkeys. And, uh, they had this epidemic and all the monkeys died but
they didn't have contact with each other. But they were sharing a common,
uh, ventilation system. So, this is in this room, air was circulating being
pumped back, and so on. Uh, monkeys in a room that breathe the same air
Now it is only a matter of time until Ebola got here
evolves and mutates a little and it will be airborne, and then I think we
might finally get a take. And when it sweeps across the world we're gonna have a lot of dead people. Every one of you that
is lucky enough to survive gets to bury nine. Think about that. I doubt
Ebola is gonna be the one that gets us. I think
it will be, uh, something else.
But did you ever wonder why things like SARS and now what
the Avian Flu are continually cropping up? They're cropping up because we
were dumb enough to make a perfect epidemiological substrate for an
epidemic. We bred our brains out, and now we're being pegged. The microbes
are gonna take over. They're gonna
control us as they have in the past. Think about that.
Here's a breath of fresh air: Aldo Leopold. This is the
start of the tiny little up. You've got to the lowest of the low where the
microbes are gonna get you. Now, were gonna try to come up a little bit. Aldo Leopold was a
conservation biologist before anybody else was. He was in wildlife
management at the University of Wisconsin back in the 50s. And Leopold
died young, but his children have put together a collection of his essays
and made this book, "A Sand County Almanac." I encourage all of
you to read it. It brings tears to my eyes at some of the things in it. I
mean I literally break down and weep.
But one of the things Leopold said was each generation
doesn't know what it lost the last generation remembers.
Like I remember I could walk out my back door to a
semi-pristine creek and collect snakes and lizards, and kids these days
don't have that opportunity. There aren't any pristine creeks and they're
living in cities, and that's unfortunate. Uh, I've become a biologist
largely because of that. Um, you really can't help but be a biologist if
you're exposed to it when you are young.
Now one of his statements was that we cannot act as
conquerors, that we weren't given some God-given right to do anything we
want like chop down the redwood trees and we have to have respect for
fellow members of the earth. And this has to transcend antrhopocentrism.
They have a right to this planet, too.
I found this in a conservation biology textbook, and I
think it's very appropriate in these days. You remember, you probably don't
remember unless youve ever lived in a cave, but if you've ever thought
about being a caveman, we had small little tribes, and I was an old guy, and
you probably would have killed me because I can't see without glasses, so I
probably wouldn't have made it. But they keep around a few elders for their
wisdom because they've been through, you know, the droughts and problems
and those guys might have known a little bit about how to treat a broken
leg or some illness. Um, and of course you had the medicine men and women
that specialized in that.
But we were little in-bred groups and occasionally people
would move between caves but these were family groups they were little
teeny little tribes and there were battles between 'em
over resources. Um, and that's down there at the bottom. We're all familiar
with selfish behavior in that tiny little circle at the bottom. We're all
selfish and natural selection favors selfish behavior. Now you can be a
little bit altruistic towards your kin, as long as they share genes that
are identical by descent.
Uh, and so cavemen had little tribes that worked, but now
as we expand outwards the less closely related individuals would get to a
social group, or a tribe, and then finally get their own race or their own
And just look at the polarization in America today 50
percent one way and 50 percent the other. We are not doing very well at
cooperating as we go outside of that tiny circle to bigger and bigger
And then you get individuals of other species. Here I'm
thinking of chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans. They're our closest
relatives. They share our blood groups. They probably can think. I just
wonder if one of those had been the lucky one to inherit the earth and
evolve the big brain and take control over everything else how they would
be treating us. We would be the, uh, the chimps and the gorillas and they'd
be using us for medical experiments and eating us like they eat the bush
meat in Africa. Think about that.
Actually that goes beyond gorillas and apes to the whole
earth, and we really need to take control and be stewards of this planet
rather than conquerors and rapists.
Here's one more little upbeat thing, and unfortunately
this isn't very much of an up, Herman Daly has identified the big problem,
which is our economy. It's basically completely flawed. You've heard the
politicians talk about the growing economy. Our economy is based on the principal
of a chain letter, a pyramid scheme. They cannot work. The bubbles always
burst. And the bubble is going to burst.
And it's bursting right now in terms of the oil. The price
of gasoline isn't going to go down again. You need to get rich from this.
You need to hone your survival skills. The first thing you
should do when you go home tonight is get a real tarp, one that's made out
of canvas that's waterproof. Don't get one of those dumb plastic ones. They
deteriorate too fast. And start packing it with the absolute necessities
that you think you have to have for life. And that would include like a
blanket and some sharp knives and some string and some twine.
I'm not talking toothpaste. I'm not talking a lot of
things. And you wrap it up and figure out how you can carry it on your own
two shoulders because you are not going to be able to take public transport
or drive your car when the time comes. And then you want to get as far away
as you can from any other human being. And try to snare a rabbit, if there
is still a rabbit out there.
I can give you some other tips on your survival kit, but I
don't have time.
Now back to Herman Daly. He wants the economy to be
sustainable, and he has the idea of an equilibrium economy. In an
equilibrium economy, every one of us would leave this earth in exactly the
same shape it was when we came into it. None of us are doing that. None of
Uh, mainstream economists think he's a nut, he's a kook
they just ignore him. Mainstream economists, the economists that advise our
politic (political) figures, have believed completely in grow, grow, grow
growth-mania impossible economics.
So if your have a leaning towards economics here's a
challenge for you. Economics has to be reinvented. Herman Daly's published
four books on it. He has to get some people on his side. People have to
think. They can't just keep behaving like sheep thinking resources are ever
expanding. They've got to realize that the resources are ever retracting,
and we're running out of everything that matters. And I mean everything
oil, food, clean air, clean water.
This was a good book. Uh, there was actually three
versions of it. The first one was, um, commissioned by somebody concerned
about the environment back in the 70s. Dennis Meadows, uh, was the first
author of it and it was called, uh, "Limits to Growth" and he
developed a systems model for the earth and its resources and how many
people we could put on it. Had various scenarios that he could work through
including unlimited technology and a lot of other things.
And, uh, basically in 1972, he said, we better do
something fast. And, of course, just like all of us who grew up in the
60s, nobody paid any attention. We just kept breeding our brains out and
ignoring it. Then in 19uh, 92 they wrote another book called "Beyond
the Limits," and they pointed out that we could never ease back into a
sustainable society, that we had already gone too far; and that was in
Now it's 25 years later and, with his daughter, Donella, and somebody else you can see there, Dennis
has put out the "Limits to Growth 30 years Later." And this is
quite, quite a depressing book because every scenario we run we have to
have a collapse. And the collapses, uh, are worse in some scenarios than
they are in others, but they are in the immediate future.
You're going to see it in your lifetime and the important
thing is this is just the beginning of it, this thing we are experiencing
right now. We aren't ready for a non-(garbled) world. That (inaudible) out
there, shining down on you from the (inaudible). Think about that.
Here's one of their graphs where the human footprint, and
I think this is very optimistic, is that horizontal line and our actual
population is the other one and you can see the cross the maximum level in,
uh, 1980, and we're about 20 percent above according to their figures.
I think this is overly optimistic because we could never
have reached six-and-a-half billion without fossil fuels. Basically, we
turned oil into food and food into humans, and we used the oil to build
highways and cars and take over and make this mess the CO2 pollution and
all the rest. But we're running out.
So this is really, really an exciting time in the history
of mankind. Remember the ancient Chinese curse: May you live in
interesting times? I think that right now has got to be just about the
most interesting time ever and you get to see it, and, hopefully, a few are
gonna live through it.
Here's another graph from their book. The only one I could
find on the Web was a little outdated, but they predicted way long ago the
oil peak. And, of course, there are still idiots out there claiming that
there's oil galore that we will keep finding it and keep going, and I just
can't believe these people that don't understand a finite world.
But you notice the estimated population red line with a
collapse and without a collapse and things are gonna
get better after the collapse because we won't be able to decimate the
earth so much. And, I actually think the world will be much better when
there's only 10 or 20 percent of us left.
It would give wildlife a chance to recover we won't need
conservation biologists anymore. Things are gonna
I recommend Heinberg's
"Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies The Party's
Over." And last night I was sitting at a banquet with a chemist and he
said, it's like we were on a luxury liner and we're on the upper floor of
the luxury liner and there's a hole in it and it's sinking, but everybody's
having a big party up here, and it's just a matter of time until we are all
underwater. And I think this Heinberg's message
carefully researched all the facts. It's a doomsday book but he's an
optimist so he has this optimistic end where he says what we can do, as
individuals, and one is to live, you know, lessen your imprint drive a Prius instead of an Excursion uh, it'll save you
money uh, ride a bicycle grow your own food. He has all kinds of good
Now the other book on the end of the oil isn't quite as
good, I don't think but it is even more dire. The one I've got on the
right. And I wanted to tell you about John Stuart Mill and point out that
there have been bright people who have seen this coming for a long, long,
Mill wrote that back in 1858, and it's basically a
statement about a stationary world and how a stationary world can be a good
world. In a stationary world you don't have to worry about bubbles
bursting, about losing your, uh, your stock, about, about, you know,
running out of oil. In a stationary world we were sustainable and the world
stays the same from day to day.
So he says in a stationary world as opposed to one that's
grow, grow, grow where everybody has to elbow the other guy and compete to
get to the front and be concerned about who's going to win and who's going
to lose everyday in the stock market. And in a stationary world we can
focus in on things that really matter. And he used a phrase that I really
love the art of living. We can work on the art of living. Think about
Sorry that's all I've got to say.