MM #6: Accidental Tourists

This is the sixth of 18 installments in the Metastatic Modernity video series (see launch announcement), putting the meta-crisis in perspective as a cancerous disease afflicting humanity and the greater community of life on Earth. This episode makes the point that humans were not inevitable as a culmination of evolution. We are not the purpose or goal of the Earth or universe.

As is the custom for the series, I provide a stand-alone companion piece in written form (not a transcript) so that the key ideas may be absorbed by a different channel. The write-up that follows is arranged according to “chapters” in the video, navigable via links in the YouTube description field.

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Views: 207

MM #5: Our Biological Inheritance

This is the fifth of 18 installments in the Metastatic Modernity video series (see launch announcement), putting the meta-crisis in perspective as a cancerous disease afflicting humanity and the greater community of life on Earth. This episode extends the point from Episode 3 that we owe almost everything to life that came before us. All our senses and capabilities are inherited. We would be nothing without our older brothers and sisters on this planet.

As is the custom for the series, I provide a stand-alone companion piece in written form (not a transcript) so that the key ideas may be absorbed by a different channel. The write-up that follows is arranged according to “chapters” in the video, navigable via links in the YouTube description field.

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Views: 468

MM #4: Evolution

This is the fourth of about 17 in the Metastatic Modernity video series (see launch announcement), putting the meta-crisis in perspective as a cancerous episode afflicting humanity and the greater community of life on Earth. This episode addresses the more subtle and under-appreciated aspects of evolution, which acts on the whole community of life in full ecological context.

As is the custom for the series, I provide a stand-alone companion piece in written form (not a transcript) so that the key ideas may be absorbed by a different channel. The write-up that follows is arranged according to “chapters” in the video, navigable via links in the YouTube description field.

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Views: 660

MM #3: Early Life

This is the third in the Metastatic Modernity video series of about 17 installments (see launch announcement), putting the meta-crisis in perspective as a cancerous episode afflicting humanity and the greater community of life on Earth. This episode stresses that humans are nothing without the menagerie of single-celled pioneers whose many clever solutions to life we still utterly depend on today.

As is the custom for the series, I provide a stand-alone companion piece in written form (not a transcript) so that the key ideas may be absorbed by a different channel. The write-up that follows is arranged according to “chapters” in the video, navigable via links in the YouTube description field.

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Views: 668

MM #2: Cosmology

This is the second in the Metastatic Modernity video series of about 17 installments (see launch announcement), putting the meta-crisis in perspective as a cancerous episode afflicting humanity and the greater community of life on Earth. This episode provides a cosmological perspective on our insignificance.

As will be the custom for the series, I provide a stand-alone companion piece in written form (not a transcript) so that the key ideas may be absorbed by a different channel. I record unscripted videos in one take—usually keeping the first attempt—which has the advantage of being fresh and natural, but I inevitably leave out all the “right” things I would say if given more time. Writing allows more careful reflection and optimization of how I say things. I’m not as collected in real-time.

The write-up that follows is arranged according to “chapters” in the video, navigable via links in the YouTube description field.

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Views: 869

Metastatic Modernity Launch

I am excited to announce a new effort that will attempt to provide a crucial set of perspectives on modernity. It is to be a series of video shorts (5–10 minutes is my target) called Metastatic Modernity.

The name conjures a grave cancer diagnosis—terminal, in fact. This intentional association captures my sense that modernity is fated to self-terminate, like any cancer, on account of its complete reliability on non-renewable materials, accumulating ecological damage, and failure to exist as a part of an ecological whole in reciprocity with nature.  It has no long-term place on this planet.

But, because modernity is just one of many possible ways for humans to arrange their lives, a failure of modernity does not translate to a failure of humanity. The introductory video is here:

The series description reads as follows:

This series of 17 short videos aims to put modernity (another word for civilization) in perspective. In terms of cosmology, evolution, biology, ecology, and time, modernity is highly unusual and inherently self-terminating (i.e., fated to collapse). Eventually, a cancer metaphor is used to describe the tumor we witness growing out of control, spreading to all parts of the globe (metastasizing) and initiating a sixth mass extinction. Humans are not the cancer, but the infected organ within the community of life where the cancer took root.

As indicated, the present outline has 17 episodes, subject to modest expansion. I’m coming up on a solid year of weekly Do the Math posts, so I’ll probably take my foot off the pedal on that front while I concentrate on the video series. I will, however, plan to post each new release on Do the Math, along with a complementary written version of the content, sometimes with additional material (not a transcript, but a parallel and better-crafted companion). I will strive to maintain a cadence of at least one video release per week.

For now, I’ll share a bit more about the motivation and goals for this effort, followed by a written expression of what the first video covers.

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Views: 1735

Stubborn Expectations

The major development underpinning the prospect for an early-century peak in human population and even earlier peak in civilizational power is a rapid and seemingly unexpected decline in fertility rates across the world. All regions except Africa are now below the replacement rate, and still falling.

This short post—probably my last on the population topic for a while—is centered on the following animated GIF showing how the United Nations’ demographic models have expected total fertility rate (TFR) to evolve into the latter part of this century.

U.N. TFR projections from 2010, 2012, 2015, 2017, 2019, and 2022.

Every few years, the U.N. releases a demographic projection model that includes an expectation of how TFR will behave going forward.  I have already pointed out the glaring discontinuity (kink) at 2020 in the latest projection and a gallery of systematic major misses at the country level.  What the animated GIF above helps us see is how stubborn the imagined far future is—consistently aiming for a one-size-fits-all convergence.

I have referred to the notional TFR endpoint as a “magnet,” acting like a theoretical convergence point to which all regions are attracted.  We see how persistently influential this magnet is on projections in the sequence above.

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Views: 2189

Peak Power Video

I’m on a video kick lately, finding that it’s a good way to capture key points and reach people who never would have stumbled onto Do the Math. Here is a video to accompany the latest post on peak power.

I also added a playlist to my YouTube channel that has other appearances I’ve done (podcasts and the like). While I was at it (as I learn this space), I added chapters to my channel videos to make it easier to find key content. Enjoy! I think I’m also supposed to say: please like and subscribe—but I don’t know if I’m doing this right, yet.

Views: 447

Brace for Peak Impact

Image by Paul Brennan from Pixabay

Guilty as charged: my recent postings have been all about human population and when it might peak. I don’t mean to be a bore, but it’s an important topic connected to planetary limits, human impacts, ecological health, and the appealing prospect that a near-term peak may offer an earlier off-ramp for modernity. In the past, I have stressed the point (in a blog post from 2013 and later in a textbook chapter) that population per se isn’t the phenomenon of greatest concern, but its multiplication by resource usage. It’s the combination that launches us over the ecological cliff edge, commonly expressed by the I=PAT formula for impact on the planet.

In this post, I belatedly take my own advice and re-frame the population investigation in resource terms. Now that I have a demographic tool, I can ask questions relating to when we might hit peak power as a civilization. I use power (rate of energy use) as a proxy for all manner of resource dependencies, as energy usage correlates strongly with materials use and ecological impact. Plus, it is a readily-available measure.

So, given various assumptions about how fertility rates evolve regionally, and factoring in different models for regional survival rates and migration, when might we expect global resource use to peak and begin a decline? In tandem with this event, we might correspondingly expect peak industrial output, and peak rate of (accumulating) damage to ecological health—which includes our own health. In the U.N.’s standard demographic model, population does not peak until 2086 at 10.4 billion—largely bolstered by population growth in Africa, which the U.N. parameters indicate will climb to 4 billion by 2130 (we’ll see…). But, since Africa is by far the region with the lowest per-capita consumption, declines elsewhere could more than offset Africa’s population increases in terms of resource burden.

Enough speculation: let’s unleash the model and see what happens.

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Views: 4356

Peak Population Video

I put together a short (13.5 minute) video to synthesize the main points from my exploration into demographic models and what it could mean in terms of an early peak. If you’ve read the first three posts in the population series (bomb, projections, whiff), then this offers nothing new. In any case, perhaps it is an efficient way to introduce or revisit the content.

Views: 544