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Dave Cohen
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Denial is not just a river in Egypt.
Interests: evolution, energy, the economy, climate, astrobiology, music, paleontology, culture
Recent Activity
What is the biggest existential threat to humankind? Is it the dire effects of anthropogenic climate change? The threat to the biosphere posed by our rapidly deteriorating oceans? The eventual consequences of the ongoing, human-caused mass extinction? None of the above. No, the biggest threat to humankind, if you've been awake during the last month or so, is— zika virus And yet, the flu associated with this virus is so mild that might not even know you had it. What the fuck is going on? I'll quote the Nature news story The next steps on Zika (February 2, 2016). The... Continue reading
Posted 15 hours ago at Decline of the Empire
One refreshing aspect of Bernie Sanders' candidacy is his continued emphasis on the fact that the Clintons (Bill and Hillary) are corrupt. In particular, they have been and are in thrall to Wall Street interests. There is a long, sordid history documenting their strong support of financial interests. But what is corruption? And how does it work? These questions arise from some revealing remarks Hillary made in her own defense. Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton said a Treasury secretary doesn’t need to have a Wall Street pedigree to be successful, but stopped short of committing to appointing an outsider to... Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at Decline of the Empire
Here you go— I will not write this blog if I continue to get comments by humans who are not potty-trained. You can readily see that the vast majority of humans are not potty-trained by inspecting the comments at any major news site or popular website or blog. For example, if I write a post about my doubts about a "good" anthropocene, and then get multiple comments about "doomers" and associated bullshit, I will not be happy about that. Therefore, if I deem a comment from a human to be smart-assed and off-topic, I will delete that comment when I... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at Decline of the Empire
Yesterday I read Elizabeth Kolbert's What’s Causing Deadly Outbreaks of Fungal Diseases in World’s Wildlife? (Environment 360, January 18, 2015). The word "anthropocene" does not appear in Kolbert's report, but that's what the report was all about. Consider the causes of recent fungal outbreaks. Still, the question arises: why now? Why are we seeing a growing number of fungal diseases of wildlife? Experts offer two possible explanations, both of which may be valid. Here are the two explanations. Read Kolbert's essay for the details. The first is the increase in global trade and global travel. Between 1990 and 2013, the... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at Decline of the Empire
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Open thread. Unlikely coin tosses. Bad Hair Man loses. Single payer universal health care! Free state college tuition! Fairness! Justice! Right here on Earth! Democracy in action, you betcha. At National Public Radio, it's better than sex. Hillary turns out to be Hillary's worst enemy. Can Hillary defeat Hillary and go on to win the nomination? Try these on for size — President Cruz, President Rubio My fellow enlightened Americans, don't follow future trends; be a trendsetter — kill yourself now. Remember, hope is not a bug, it's a feature. The world is not devoid of entertainment — at least... Continue reading
Posted Feb 2, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
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A new Nature study finds that the next ice age won't arrive for (at least) 100,000 years. You can take that off the list of things to get worked up about. Here's a summary from Carbon Brief. Around 12,000 years ago, the Earth emerged from its last ice age. As the vast ice sheets that covered much of the northern hemisphere receded, human civilization blossomed, making the most of the relatively mild conditions that we still enjoy today. In the new study, published in Nature, researchers have worked out a formula for what triggers an ice age to start. The... Continue reading
Posted Feb 1, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
Here's some weekend entertainment for you. The PBS Newshour asks Are the best days of the U.S. economy over? Well, let's see. Is the Pope Catholic? Does a bear shit in the woods? Does Hillary take Wall Street money? There are many ironies to consider as you watch the video report below, which is based on Robert Gordon's new book The Rise and Fall of American Growth. Gordon notes that we have been increasingly fucked since 1970. Have a nice weekend. Continue reading
Posted Jan 29, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
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This post's title comes from a 2011 essay of the same name by Joseph Heath, professor in the Department of Philosophy and the School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Toronto. That essay is worth reading, so I've reprinted some of it with comments here. The introduction explains why it is not easy being green. I like the way it relates the climate change mitigation problem to everyday life. I've reprinted it without comment. A couple of years ago, while contemplating the dandelions running riot alongside the road in front of my house, I decided it was... Continue reading
Posted Jan 28, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
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Among liberal pundits who benefit from the status quo, the contest between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders has come down to this: 1) Hillary is pragmatic. Bernie is a pie-in-the-sky idealist. (Obama the pragmatist was a great president and Hillary is his heir.) 2) Everybody knows profound change (as suggested by Bernie) is impossible. The status quo is all-powerful. Therefore— 3) Vote for Hillary. Here's Dave Roberts talking about our future: In 2016, barring some truly disruptive political event (which, who knows, Trump may prove to be), Republicans are going to keep control of the House of Representatives... So there... Continue reading
Posted Jan 26, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
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Many years ago, Daniel Pauly of the University of British Columbia and the Sea Around Us project set out to determine the true of extent of human exploitation of marine fish populations. Last week Pauly and his colleague Dirk Zeller published their startling results in a Nature Communications study called Catch reconstructions reveal that global marine fisheries catches are higher than reported and declining (January 19, 2016, open access). Graph from the Nature News report Independent study tallies 'true catch' of global fishing We reached "peak" wild-caught fish in the mid-1990s. This text if from the Nature News report linked-in... Continue reading
Posted Jan 25, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
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I'm not even going to say anything. I'm just going to re-print this astonishing bullshit and let you comment on it. I'm tired of doing all the work. Show me you've understood what Flatland is. The short essay The Twin Tides of Change was written by Timo Hannay at Edge.org (image below). File under: Flatland, optimism bias, technophilia, bad news filtering, generalized delusion, anthropocentrism, story-telling, head so far up your ass you've never seen the sun shine The Twin Tides of Change News stories are by their nature ephemeral. Whipped up by the media (whether mass or social), they soon... Continue reading
Posted Jan 21, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
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Disclaimer — I do not presume to know what will happen to the global economy in 2016 and you should be very skeptical of those who think they do know. Hardly a day passes now without turmoil in the world's financial markets. Oil prices have yet to find the bottom, which tells us that there's not much demand for the stuff. And yet, when we look at the data, we are told that oil (liquids) demand grew in 2015, and that it's expected to rise some more in 2016. Perhaps supply has outstripped (still growing?) demand, but that certainly doesn't... Continue reading
Posted Jan 20, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
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Yale's Environment 360 recently conducted an interview with Montana entomologist Diana Six. Here's the part that got my attention. e360 —The scale of the current epidemic is unprecedented. Since the 1990s more than 60 million acres of forest, from northern New Mexico through British Columbia, have suffered die-offs. By the time the outbreak in British Columbia peters out, some 60 percent of the mature pines in the province may be dead. That’s a billion cubic meters of wood. People who have not been to the Rockies lately may not grasp the extent of the tree die-off due to the bark... Continue reading
Posted Jan 18, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
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We're only a few weeks into 2016 and bullshit is everywhere. It's even worst than I thought it would be. Here in the United States, the media are obsessed with the presidential race to the near-total exclusion of everything else. I mean, this is bad. In 2015 at least we could ridicule that bogus Paris climate deal. This year, we'll be lucky if climate change gets mentioned at all. Even the oversold recovery, which is always the most important issue on voters' minds, is taking a back seat to Donald, Bernie, Hillary and Ted. And nobody has cast a vote... Continue reading
Posted Jan 14, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
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In my bleak post The Meaning Of Life, reader Sam Taylor mentioned Thomas Ligotti's book The Conspiracy Against The Human Race. I was not familiar with Ligotti, so I took a look. We're talking about Deep Pessimism here. I am still reading through the text—more like skimming through it—but I found a page of Ligotti quotes from that book which we can look at today. Here's the first one. “If truth is what you seek, then the examined life will only take you on a long ride to the limits of solitude and leave you by the side of the... Continue reading
Posted Jan 12, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
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Have you looked at Future Tense? Future Tense is the citizen’s guide to the future. A partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University, Future Tense explores how emerging technologies will change the way we live. The latest consumer gadgets are intriguing, but we focus on the longer-term transformative power of robotics, information and communication technologies, synthetic biology, augmented reality, space exploration, and other technologies. Future Tense seeks to understand the latest technological and scientific breakthroughs, and what they mean for our environment, how we relate to one another, and what it means to be human. Future Tense also... Continue reading
Posted Jan 10, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
I couldn't help but notice that my own start to 2016 mirrored the situation in global financial markets. I have visions of hedge fund guys huddled around two space heaters in a single room as markets (my house) crash (freeze). Is this 2008 all over again? George Soros hinted that it might be, and The Economist took issue with his evaluation. It seems that "investors" have finally woken up to the fact that China's economy is profoundly fucked up. From The Economist: But the 2008 parallel can only be sustained if we are talking about a debt bubble bursting, and... Continue reading
Posted Jan 8, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
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The rumor is that I may have heat in my building tomorrow. Ah, the virtues of gas-driven central heating. I won't be taking that for granted anymore. I just wanted to let you know that I haven't frozen to death. Let this be an open thread. I'm too fed up and disgusted to actually talk about anything. Lately I've seen too much human incompetence up close and personal. Why anyone would think this global civilization will be intact by the end of this century remains the central mystery to be explained. — Dave Continue reading
Posted Jan 6, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
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I was rudely awoken last night with alarms coming from the gas furnace in the house I live in. Apparently the girls living upstairs heard the alarms first and called 911, because by the time I became aware of the situation, there was a big fire truck in front of the house and all sorts of guys running around the house, including somebody from the gas department. Long story short, the furnace was spewing carbon monoxide into the house and had to be shut down. If they hadn't shut it down, I might be dead now. Now I'm waiting for... Continue reading
Posted Dec 30, 2015 at Decline of the Empire
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It is not hard to find signs of America's decline, but grim statistics only tell part of the story. The deeper problem is that the United States is, psychologically speaking, a basket case. This is most evident in the presidential political circus which dominated the news during the latter half of 2015. And yet not a single vote was cast by any citizen for any candidate this year. The first vote won't be cast until next month. For this reason alone, 2016 will be worse than 2015 because the craziness won't end until November of next year. Rampant political insanity... Continue reading
Posted Dec 28, 2015 at Decline of the Empire
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Sometimes when it's 4 o'clock in the morning and I am wide awake, I lay in bed and think about the nature of the Universe. Is it part of a multiverse? Do we live in a computer simulation? If we do, how could we possibly know that if there are no observable errors (reveals) in the program. What is an "error" in this context? Source Sometimes I wonder why there is something instead of nothing. Once the question arises, I can not think further about it. The mind boggles. No thoughts come. So I'll skip that. Then I think, well,... Continue reading
Posted Dec 27, 2015 at Decline of the Empire
It is two days before Christmas and it's 60 degrees (F) outside. I guess it's time to talk about the meaning of life. My starting point is an essay by Roy Scranton in the New York Times called We're Doomed, Now What? Roy starts off by noting the prevalence of "nihilism" in modern life, but I'm going to skip that part. Here's a simple definition of nihilism. the rejection of all religious and moral principles, often in the belief that life is meaningless The key word is "meaningless". The way humans give life "meaning" is Roy's theme. We get to... Continue reading
Posted Dec 23, 2015 at Decline of the Empire
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Harvard professor Naomo Oreskes wrote an opinion piece at The Guardian called There is a new form of climate denialism to look out for – so don't celebrate yet (hat tip, reader Alex). Check this out. After the signing of an historic climate pact in Paris, we might now hope that the merchants of doubt – who for two decades have denied the science and dismissed the threat – are officially irrelevant. But not so fast. There is also a new, strange form of denial that has appeared on the landscape of late, one that says that renewable sources can’t... Continue reading
Posted Dec 22, 2015 at Decline of the Empire
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Normally I would post the video at the end, but today let's start off with it. I fear that many readers are too young to remember this seminal moment from Paddy Chayefsky's Network (1976). If you've never seen this classic movie, you owe it to yourself to watch it. It has never been more relevant than it is today. Bill Moyers and Michael Winship are mad as hell too. The problem is that Bad News for Democracy Is Great News for TV Profits. Television news has gone off its rocker and turned our politics into the equivalent of a freak... Continue reading
Posted Dec 20, 2015 at Decline of the Empire
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This is a short follow-up to yesterday's post. Reuters reports today that Japan and South Korea stick to coal despite global climate deal. Less than a week since signing the global climate deal in Paris, Japan and South Korea are pressing ahead with plans to open scores of new coal-fired power plants, casting doubt on the strength of their commitment to cutting CO2 emissions. Even as many of the world's rich nations seek to phase out the use of coal, Asia's two most developed economies are burning more than ever and plan to add at least 60 new coal-fired power... Continue reading
Posted Dec 16, 2015 at Decline of the Empire