What I Have Learned

“I have learned that most people are ‘Takers,’ in the spirit of Daniel Quinn’s 1992 novel, Ishmael. ‘Leavers’ formed cultures that thrived for more than 300,000 years before the agricultural revolution. ‘Leavers’ comprised indigenous people: herders, hunters, and gatherers. Those cultures lived lightly and took only what they needed. ‘Takers’ are the ‘civilized’ version of humans. We are the people who killed or annexed those prior cultures. We continue to do so, in the few remaining locations with little-contacted, indigenous people.”—Guy McPherson

Going Dark

By Dr. Guy McPherson

Daniel Quinn, author of Ishmael.
Daniel Quinn, author of Ishmael.

Guy McPherson

MAITLAND Florida—(Weekly Hubris)—15 May 2020—I have learned a lot since I voluntarily left active service as a tenured professor at a major university. I was 49 years old when I cut the monetary cord on 1 May 2009, the day most of the world celebrates workers. I will share some of the hard-earned knowledge I have gained in this short essay. Perhaps doing so will prevent others from making some of the many mistakes I have made. Perhaps I can continue to encourage learning, creativity, and pushing beyond the shackles of the culture into which I was born.

My goal in leaving active service in the privileged life of the academy was to lead by example. I wanted to prevent Earth from experiencing abrupt, irreversible climate change, the now-evident Mass Extinction Event, and a multitude of other adverse outcomes associated with industrial civilization. I failed in this most important of endeavors. I was probably at least a century too late getting started, based on the importance of the aerosol masking effect at that time. In addition, opting out of industrial civilization proved troublesome on several fronts, including the loss of my ability to teach on campus, the demise of many relationships, and the disappearance of income.

Although I left the university, and because I cannot escape who I am, I continue to teach. Equally important, I continue to learn. The 2.7-acre homestead in the wilds of southern, rural New Mexico provided many teachable moments for me and my hundreds of visitors. So, too, did the 57-acre homestead I occupied in western Belize.

At the homestead in southern, rural New Mexico, I learned how to grow food. I learned how to design and build structures. I learned animal husbandry. I built structures to house non-human animals. I learned how to milk goats. I became adept, expert even, at making mozzarella, Feta, and Parmesan. Once I even created something delicious that closely resembled blue cheese, which would have been more impressive had I not been trying to make Monterey Jack.

At the homestead in the Belizean jungle, I was immersed within a biological rich environment. I learned new plants, and a new way of living close to the Earth. I interacted with dozens of inquisitive visitors.

By the time my homesteading experiences were complete, I learned that any attempt to live beyond the dominant, omnicidal paradigm is subject to punishment. Actions in pursuit of a different path are met with confusion, disdain, and hatred, all rooted in ignorance. According to most people, there is one way to live. Anything else is a mistake. Based on the reactions I have received, my attempt to live beyond mainstream culture has proven to be a mistake.

From my experiences rooted in the pursuit of living beyond mainstream culture, I learned a lot about human behavior, and most of what I learned contradicted my prior idealism. I learned most people are neither particularly intelligent nor capable of critical thinking. Cultural lies are repeated without question. The majority of people believe what they want to believe, contrary to evidence, and they promulgate lies without regard to evidence or the ensuing harm.

In other words, I learned that most people are unreliable. This made me sad. It still makes me sad.

I have learned that most people are “Takers,” in the spirit of Daniel Quinn’s 1992 novel, Ishmael. “Leavers” formed cultures that thrived for more than 300,000 years before the agricultural revolution. “Leavers” comprised indigenous people: herders, hunters, and gatherers. Those cultures lived lightly and took only what they needed. “Takers” are the “civilized” version of humans. We are the people who killed or annexed those prior cultures. We continue to do so, in the few remaining locations with little-contacted, indigenous people.

Despite what we have become, and recognizing that we were all born into the captivity of this set of living arrangements, I still refuse to sacrifice love for cynicism. After all, doing so would be among the greatest mistakes a person could commit.

I have learned a little kindness goes a long way. I have learned that we can all use more kindness and less judgment to the benefit of all, at little or no monetary cost. As nearly as I can tell, very few people have learned any of these simple concepts. It is no wonder, at least to me, that we are headed for human extinction in the near future.

Most people, including at least 95 perhaps of the people I know, will gladly give away human habitat in exchange for a few fancy bills colored with ink. It is therefore small wonder the looming ice-free Arctic represents only one of several means by which we will soon witness the demise of habitat for humans on Earth.

Homo sapiens has conquered the globe, for now. As we will all soon learn, nature bats last. During the intervening time between now and my near-term expiration date, I intend to live fully, with intention. I will continue to pursue rationalism, too. I have little doubt it will continue to be a lonesome path. I would rather be alone than unprincipled. Please join me, and the slim minority, along a principled path.

Anthony Malcolm Daniels, who writes as Theodore Dalrymple.
Anthony Malcolm Daniels, who writes as Theodore Dalrymple.

I am reminded of a few lines from English cultural critic Theodore Dalrymple:

“When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is . . .  in some small way to become evil oneself. One’s standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed little in my life. I predicted such an outcome nearly 13 years ago: “The description and management of human populations back in the days of the Greek Cynics was oriented along population lines, with relatively little societal regard for individuals. Contrast that perspective with our laser-like focus on individuals. Let’s take a quick look at the Four Horsemen, one at a time.  . . . We’ll also see pestilence—what we call disease, when it happens one person at a time —making a big comeback.”

COVID-19 has undoubtedly shortened our time, which already was very limited. I continue to focus on the here and now, grateful for the time and privilege I have enjoyed on this most beautiful of planets. I would appreciate even more time, of course, but I am often and recently inspired by Edward Abbey. Most recently, I re-read his 1982 book, Down the River, after putting it aside for more than 40 years: “Each precious moment entails every other. Each sacred place suggests the immanent presence of all places. Each man, each woman, exemplifies all humans.”

Focusing on the precious moments, the sacred places, and the humans in my life has brought me great comfort. Indeed, at least for me, continuing to adhere to principle and also continuing to accept human extinction do not induce despair. Unlike most of my many detractors, I am not miserable. Indeed, the ability to face the mirror without shame is important to me, and it has become a pleasant experience.

Absurdism, the unintentionally hilarious actions of my detractors, and the presence of supportive friends combine to bring me joy. I smile and laugh frequently every day. Most days, I dance. I read, I write, and I dip into the saltwater pool on the rental property I occupy in central Florida.

In short, joy has found me, although I was not seeking it. May your final days be equally fine.

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

Only Love Remains: Dancing at the Edge of Extinction by Guy R. McPherson


Only Love Remains: Dancing at the Edge of Extinction Kindle Edition, by Guy McPherson.

Kindle Edition.

Dr. 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 16 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-hosts 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. Visit McPherson’s Author Page at (Author Head Shot Augment: René Laanen.)


  • Mitch Price

    Thank you teacher for your beautiful words
    Please don’t ever stop teaching
    I’ve followed you for so many years now that I no longer recall how long it’s been
    I feel as if we are old friends
    I wish I could have sat in your classroom
    Time to ride the moon down
    Much love

  • Guy R McPherson

    Thank you for your loving words, Mitch Price. I tried to stop teaching, more than 11 years ago. I found that I could not stop. I’m afraid you’re stuck with me for the duration, however long that is.

  • Jeremy

    “I”, “my”, “me” – appear over 70 times in this essay.

    YOU are incredible Guy.

  • Snowy

    Well done!

    “Without an intellectual awakening, the turning point will be driven by economic law…..Political action, to be truly beneficial, must be directed toward changing the hearts and minds of the people, recognizing that it’s the virtue and morality of the people that allow liberty to flourish… The #1 responsibility for each of us is to change ourselves with hope that others will follow. ”
    — Ron Paul

    The ultimate solution is not in the hands of ….

  • Guy R McPherson

    Jeremy, there are several reasons I write from my own perspective. My thoughts and feelings cannot possibly match yours. As a result, I use “I” language to make clear that my experiences, thoughts, and beliefs are my own. Not yours. Mine.

    Thank you for your comment, Snowy. The words of António Guterres ring hollow to me. After a century of divisiveness, I fail to see how attempts to “come together” will work.

  • Nathan

    Money surely isn’t everything, especially in these perilous times in which we live. Thank you for more words of wisdom.

  • Steph

    Nailed it my Friend! My thoughts exactly.

    People I thought I knew have become strangers to me by their IGMFU attitudes. Many dark qualities flourish, crimes go unpunished, corruption is rewarded.

    Isolation from the mainstream my only relief, as I have lost faith in the majority of humanity.

    Love to you & Paulina❤️

  • Robert Gage

    I have long been a fan of your work, Guy, and this essay, enriched with your experiences, another terrific piece.

    I remember you writing something along the lines of ” … we shouldn’t seek happiness, instead we should seek fulfilment”, which has become one of my key life mantras. It is pleasing to read today therefore that ” … joy has found me, although I was not seeking it.”

    It brought a smile to my face and pleasure to note that, for the moment at least, you are finding peace.

    All the very best to you,

  • Patricia

    Dr. Guy McPherson’s scholarly essay, appropriately expressed in the 1st person, given the title, points to many exquisite multi-cultural experiences spanning biology, evolution, farming, physics, life and psychology in the personal acquisition of knowledge. This science bug is always enlightened by the Professor’s wisdom.

    Perhaps some readers might benefit by eating “Brainberries” as prescribed in the Dr. Steven Pratt MD book, SUPERFOODS Rx on 14 beneficial foods. Animal studies researchers found that blueberries help protect the brain from today’s oxidative stress and reduce effects of age-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s Disease & dementia. And, Jeremy, don’t forget some nuts & seeds for cognitive decline also.

  • Guy R McPherson

    Good point, Nathan. I realized money wasn’t everything a long time ago, which is why I left active service at the university where I had been employed for two decades. That was more than 11 years ago.

    Steph, I know a lot about friends-turned-strangers. I wish I knew less.

    Thank you, Bob. Some things are better left unsought. That’s the only way I’ve found joy.

    Patricia, thanks for the nutrition lesson. I consume blueberries every day on my breakfast cereal!

  • Tom

    Besides this loving essay, I wanted to add how much joy I find in your headline reading and stock market report! The absurdist approach is refreshing!

    Thanks Guy!

  • Jerry Billstrom

    Hi Guy! Yeah… It is deeply annoying when I have to sit back as trained rabid weasels bite and eat at the nervous herd. Something like, ‘It happens a little at a time then all at once’ stuck with me but I still dream. When I wake I look out and see the beauty and ominous cloud formations of the Gulf framing it like a bad sci fi movie. So I do what I like. This from ‘No Country for Old Men’ – “Can’t stop what’s coming. It ain’t all waitin’ on you. That’s vanity’. I found that one out the hard way. I think what’s coming is on the books. I water the plants and chat with my dog. I ain’t waiting for it, I am living it. Cheers and thanks for the reminder.

  • Guy R McPherson

    Thank you, Tom. Camus inspires my absurdism.

    Great film, Jerry Billstrom. I watch few movies, but that’s a great line from a superb film.