Pressum Diem

Guy McPherson

“I, myself, doubt that many people reading these words have three years to live. Habitat for humans on Earth will disappear shortly after the Arctic ice is gone, which is likely to occur in the summer of 2019. Three decades is a pipe dream to be experienced by no humans on Earth.”—Guy McPherson

Going Dark

By Dr. Guy McPherson

The K-Pg Boundary, all that remains of the burgeoning life on Earth prior to the Cretaceous-Paleogene Extinction Event.

The K-Pg Boundary, all that remains of the burgeoning life on Earth prior to the Cretaceous-Paleogene Extinction Event.

Guy McPherson

WESTCHESTER COUNTY New York—(Weekly Hubris)—January 2019—Imagine you’re listening to the radio as you gaze at the horizon out your fourth-floor window. You see a mushroom cloud and immediately recognize it. You realize that the 20-foot-long I-beam spinning toward you will strike you dead in three seconds. There is no way to escape. You simply wait.

But . . . you have miscalculated the path of the I-beam. It sails clear, narrowly missing the roof above your head.

A voice on the radio announces the bomb blast will level everything in your city within three minutes. Compared to three seconds, three minutes seems like an eternity. What will you do with the time? Make a telephone call? Make peace with your god(s)?

Now, imagine a trip to a medical doctor. He matter-of-factly informs you that your condition gives you only three minutes to live. He leaves you alone with your thoughts. You ponder your life and wonder how to proceed. You think about calling somebody. Or maybe you take a few deep breaths, instead.

The doctor re-enters the examination room after two minutes and 30 seconds. He apologizes for his error and says you have about three hours to live, not three minutes. You breathe a sigh of relief. Three hours seems a long time compared to three minutes. You can make a few calls, pen a quick will, and record some thoughts for posterity.

Rinse and repeat for a diagnosis of three days versus three hours. And then, for three weeks as opposed to three days. Three weeks! It’s nearly an eternity compared to a few days.

Three weeks doesn’t seem long until it’s compared to a few days. Ditto for three months relative to three weeks. And, also, three years compared to three months.

Three years is a short-term, terminal diagnosis. Few people would be satisfied to learn they have such a short future.

I, myself, doubt that many people reading these words have three years to live.

Habitat for humans on Earth will disappear shortly after the Arctic ice is gone, which is likely to occur in the summer of 2019.

Three decades is a pipe dream to be experienced by no humans on Earth.

Although three years is a stunningly short span of time, it doesn’t seem at all short relative to three months. Ditto for the pairwise comparisons of months to weeks to days to hours to minutes to seconds. Thus, do the seven threes, from seconds to years, serve as a powerful reminder to live in the present moment.

Just as the Sixth Mass Extinction is proceeding completely unknown to most humans, the End-Permian Extinction, the worst of the six mass extinction events within the last 500 million years, occurred without warning about 252 million years ago. The current, ongoing event is proceeding at an order of magnitude faster than the version of 252 million years ago as we pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere roughly on an order of magnitude faster than occurred then. Contemporary events match those of the deep past as marine and terrestrial species disappear over a period that is geologically instantaneous.

Because mammals depend heavily upon myriad other species for their own survival this group of organisms cannot evolve quickly enough to escape the Sixth Mass Extinction. Homo sapiens are mammals. If this sounds problematic to you, then you are paying proper attention.

Of course, the situation grows worse by the day. We are heading for a New Cretaceous Period, not for “a new normal.”

The Cretaceous Period meant hothouse Earth, the end of which was particularly suitable for the blossoming of small mammals as the dinosaurs went extinct. As the author of the linked article points out, “the only way I can possibly conceive of humans living in a New Cretaceous age is as a rump of scientists and technologists working in artificial, protected shelters.” He goes on, noting that “the Holocene was a freakish gift to humanity that we have exploited and taken for granted. We are now assisting at its funeral.”

And at ours, I would add.

Adding to the overwhelming evidence pointing to our near-term demise, comes this from the Washington Post: “Over the past quarter-century, Earth’s oceans have retained 60 percent more heat each year than scientists previously had thought.” More than 90 percent of the planet’s heat is absorbed by the oceans, where it adds to ocean acidification before it is released into the atmosphere to heat up land surfaces.

What’s the problem with ocean acidification? The seafloor is dissolving as a direct result. According to the lead author of the paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, “geologists in millions of years may look at the Anthropocene as a brown layer of sediments lost in the geological record.”

I cannot even imagine the level of hubris required to assume humans will survive the Sixth Mass Extinction. After all, as pointed out by Paul Watson, founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society: “If the oceans die, we die. We can’t live on this planet with a dead ocean.”

None of this comes as a surprise to me, nor should it to regular readers of Weekly Hubris. After all, the atmospheric carbon dioxide level is likely the highest it’s been in 15 million years. For those of you keeping score at home, Homo sapiens have called Earth home for about 300,000 years.

We don’t have long. Pressum diem! May we find the means and the fortitude to squeeze the life out of every moment.

To order Dr. McPherson’s books, click the cover images here below:

McPherson going dark cover

McPherson Walking Away from Empire - A Personal Journey cover

Guy McPherson

About Guy McPherson

Guy McPherson is an internationally recognized speaker, award-winning scientist, and one of the world’s leading authorities on abrupt climate change leading to near-term human extinction. He is professor emeritus at the University of Arizona, where he taught and conducted research for 20 years. His published works include 14 books and hundreds of scholarly articles. Dr. McPherson has been featured on television and radio and in several documentary films. He is a blogger and social critic who co-host his own radio show, “Nature Bats Last.” Dr. McPherson speaks to general audiences across the globe, and to scientists, students, educators, and not-for-profit and business leaders who seek their best available options when confronting Earth’s cataclysmic changes.
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16 Responses to Pressum Diem

  1. Avatar Jan Wyllie says:

    Be grateful for every moment given to learn the meaning of such an unexpected (to most) but inevitable ending.

  2. Avatar Guy McPherson says:

    Exactly, Jan. Thank you.

  3. Avatar Tom Ferry says:

    May this year be better than the last for you, Guy. It’s great to have you back in the states. Thanks for staying strong, being honest and telling it like it is.

    Back when NBL still had a comments section I “bet” a fellow doomer named Pat that 2019 would be the year that “everyone knows how bad it is.” Hope I’m wrong, but it looks bleak.

  4. Avatar Jacqueline Schilder says:

    Pressum Diem is a new one to me. But Carpe Diem has been my motto since I was diagnosed with a melanoma in my eye over ten years ago. I had a 50:50 chance of surviving ten years. I decided I had better visit the places I wanted to see while I was still alive and could still see. I’ve been to somewhere in North or South America every year since and it has been the best decade of my life. And I’m still here!

  5. Avatar Joseph Yoder says:

    “If the oceans die, we die. We can’t live on this planet with a dead ocean.” I’ve been thinking about this one lately. Seems like even the most fundamental Natural Science 101 class should have told us this.

    Yet we, Man The Clever, have continued to over-fish and use the oceans as a garbage dump throughout my life (63 years so far). Apparently, big brain notwithstanding, our behavior shows that we have no more ability to plan for the future than a swarm of fruit flies with an abundant food source, in a jar.

  6. Avatar Guy McPherson says:

    Thank you for the insightful comments, Tom, Jacqueline, and Joseph. I suspect we all hope you’re wrong, Tom, and that I am, too. In the meantime, it seems Jacqueline’s story can be used to motivate us to live with urgency regardless of how long we each have left. Sadly, Joseph, our dismally ignorant past actions ensure a future shorter than previously expected.

  7. Avatar Barry Smiler says:

    Guy, thanks for this, and for what you do. I don’t always agree with your time estimates for the Sixth Mass Extinction and I feel that Jenga-style global economic failure caused by early-stage climate change will be the proximate cause of collapse (see my site barrysmiler.com), but these are just quibbles. It’s coming – no, it’s here. Three minutes, three days, three weeks … not much difference. All we have at this point is all we’ve ever had, which is Now – appreciating what and who remains. Here’s a note of appreciation for your work.

  8. Avatar Guy McPherson says:

    Thank you, Barry. We agree completely about your most important point: All we have is now.

  9. Avatar Dunstan says:

    What are your thoughts on Paul Beckwiths work? He says that the blue ocean event will take several years to unfold in the arctic. First, it will be ice free for a month and the the next year a couple of months and so on until it’s ice free all summer. Is the methane release that leads to rapid global temperature rise going to happen right after the first summer of the partially ice free arctic?
    Thanks again Guy for all you do, and I as well (selfishly) am glad you are back in the states with good telecommunication infrastructure.

  10. Avatar Guy McPherson says:

    Thank you for the comment, Dunstan. Without getting into my opinion of Mr. Beckwith and his work, I would say we do not need a blue-Ocean event to trigger catastrophe. Indeed, we already have. Scientists with qualifications who work in the field indicate we can expect a rapid release of methane any time. Some say it’s happening now, even without an ice-free Arctic.

  11. Avatar Brian Fitch says:

    Thank you for the great links you include in your writing. The abstract about the abruptness of the end-Permian extinction event is fascinating.
    You know, the whole cult-hero thing is crazy. Personally, I just think you might be right about a lot of things.
    Best Wishes

  12. Avatar Guy McPherson says:

    I agree about the evidence being correct, Brian. I simply follow the evidence.

  13. Avatar S Byrd says:

    “None are as hopelessly enslaved, as those who falsely believe they are free. The Truth has been kept from the depth of their Minds by Masters who rule them with lies. They feed them on falsehoods till wrong looks like right in their eyes.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
    ———
    Prof. Guy, Much gratitude for sharing your old Soul’s brilliance, inspiration and ‘higher self’ journey embracing Truth. The higher the message, the higher the self. Exploring one’s ‘calling’ in life can can be a source of much anxiety. Thanks for your many sacrifices.

  14. Avatar Guy McPherson says:

    S Byrd, thank you for noticing, and for your kind comment

  15. Avatar fluency says:

    Guy,
    I’ve been reading your blog/s for years now, maybe since 2011? 2009? Earlier? I don’t know for how long, but maybe that doesn’t matter. Unlike your tell-it-like-it-is, anti-sugar-coating, broader-scientific-perspective-sharing: that has and continues to matter; so, so much. Thank you.
    You have taught me to grieve for what has and is being lost, while suggesting that my wonder, reverence and honouring of what remains might uphold me in the terrors to come. To additionally be released from false expectations, hopium, unhelpful, wishful-thinking, pop-psychology-esque narratives – I will always be grateful.
    Best to you this year, and may Beauty surround and sustain you.

  16. Avatar Guy McPherson says:

    Thank you, fluency. You’ve accomplished a rare feat: You haves rendered me speechless.

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