Guy McPherson—”How Do We Act in the Face of Climate Chaos?”


Published on Oct 20, 2013

The rate of climate change clearly has gone beyond linear, as indicated by the presence of myriad self-reinforcing feedback loops, and now threatens our species with extinction in the near term. Anthropologist Louise Leakey ponders our near-term demise in her 5 July 2013 assessment at Huffington Post. In the face of near-term human extinction, most Americans view the threat as distant and irrelevant, as illustrated by a 22 April 2013 article in the Washington Post based on poll results that echo the long-held sentiment that elected officials should be focused on the industrial economy, not faraway minor nuisances such as climate change.

This presentation brings attention to recent forecasts and positive feedbacks. Sources of forecasts include the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Hadley Centre for Meteorological Research, the United Nations Environment Programme, the Global Carbon Project, and the Copenhagen Diagnosis. None of these forecasts include selfreinforcing feedback loops, 23 of which have been triggered. Nor do these forecasts include economic collapse, the single phenomenon that might prevent our early demise, according to Tim Garrett’s (2011) paper in Climatic Change, “Are there basic physical constraints on future anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide?”

Guy McPherson was born and raised in the heart of the Aryan Nation, small-town northern Idaho. He first experienced the hair-raising incident of a rifle pointed at the base of his neck when he was ten years old. The person behind the trigger was thirteen.

This episode was so ordinary he didn’t bother to tell his parents for two decades. It simply never came up.

The escape from the benighted village came in the form of education, in large part because McPherson’s parents were lifelong educators. To pay for his undergraduate education, which led to a degree in forestry, McPherson spent summers working on a helitack crew. Staring down a large wildfire at the age of nineteen, he realized some forces of nature are beyond the human ability to manage.

More than ten years into a career in the academic ivory tower, McPherson began focusing his efforts on social criticism, with topics ranging from education and evolution to the twin sides of the fossil-fuel coin: (1) global climate change and (2) energy decline and the attendant economic consequences. His public appearances stress these two predicaments because each of them informs and impacts every aspect of life on Earth.

He also speaks about our individual and societal response to these phenomena, and includes topics such as authenticity, Socratic lives of excellence, and the role and responsibility of our species in the world.

McPherson’s latest chapter includes abandoning his tenured position as full professor at a major research university for ethical reasons. His story is described in his memoir, “Walking Away from Empire.” You can read about that book and his many others at his website:

Global Climate Change
Environment Ethics
Environment Justice

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