We Need More “Perspeck”



When I was a greenhorn journalist starting to work for Farm Journal magazine in Philadelphia many thousands of years ago, I got all wrought up over news that my hometown state of Ohio was having a crop failure in the cornfields. I wanted to write an alarming piece on how the grain markets were in for a real purge. One of the older editors sat me down in his office and gently said: “Gene, you gotta have more ‘perspeck’ on the news. It’s all about ‘perspeck’.” I had not heard of that word, but understood it was his shorthand for perspective. “The entire corn crop of Ohio could fail and it would be only a drop in the bucket compared to Illinois and Iowa and their surrounding states,” he informed me. And then he showed me the statistics to prove it.

Society today needs more perspeck. We have all become paranoid about everything. One doomsday prediction after another throws a shadow over even the brightest news. When I try to relieve the gloom with a little humor, I get scolded for being naïve or ignorant or irresponsible. I am inclined, for example, to make snide wisecracks about global warming. I am supposed to stand here on the edge of eternity, quailing and moaning about future flooding of the coastal plains, future deserts in the Great Plains, future obsolescence of the airplanes, future end of stock market gains, and future destruction of the food grains, all because the polar ice is melting and the oceans have risen a couple of inches (actually I just read that it is really a half inch) in the last twenty years. Sure global warming is a worrisome fact and no doubt humans are making it worse. I will quit making snotty remarks about it the very second I see a significant number of people, or even an insignificant number, reduce their fuel-burning traveling habit by one mile or when I see one government reduce by one gallon the amount of fuel it burns in pursuit of war or votes. I will quit making snotty remarks when I could find a scientist who can tell me with accuracy how much CO2 is being emitted into the earth’s atmosphere by natural sources on any particular day or year. No one, as far as I can find out, has any accurate perspeck on that amount. People are standing around, living exactly like they have always lived, wringing their hands about global warming as if they lived in some sort of ghastly dystopia like people in earlier days worrying about the increase in witches in New England.

A study just released on the diets of French people seems to suggest (doesn’t say so exactly) that a good healthy diet of fruits, vegetables and grains causes people to emit more greenhouse gas than a diet high in meat, eggs and dairy products. So if you want to do your part to save the planet, eat more animal products even if it kills you. Since eating more meat would mean more animals passing more gas, well, you see, we are still doomed. The perspeck needed here is some accurate, reliable figures on how much CO2 the earth is releasing. Is it  1,000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000 pounds a day or thereabouts in which case all the farting humans and farm animals together wouldn’t be a drop in the bucket or a bubble in the bathtub.

The gloom and doom industry got a big boost on Feb. 15 when a meteorite disintegrated over Russia. What made that event so delicious for paranoidsville was that on the very same day an asteroid passed overhead, only some 18,000 miles away. God or Gaia or somebody is trying to tell us something. OMG.

Don’t you make fun, Mr. Logsdon. An asteroid did hit the earth in 1908 and flattened an area 20 miles by 40 miles in size. And a very large asteroid hit the earth 65 million years ago destroying most of the higher forms of life. That is correct. And now I quote the New York Times: “Earth collisions with objects that large happen only at average intervals of 100 million years.” The end is nigh—just 35 million years away


Aside from questions about global warming and the consequences of this gobble-it-all-up mass industrial civilization (yeah you all kinda know what I think about that) one of the great questions we need to ask, in fact in my view I think it’s THE question (or a two-parter anyway): is how we are living now sustainable? And the second part, what the hell is sustainable anyway, what does that word really mean? And I’m not talking about the fad either, changing your light bulbs and such. That’s nice but essentially meaningless.

We have some examples in the indigenous folks that lived here before the Europeans came. Some of those tribes can trace their ancestry on this continent from 7 to plus 20 thousand years, depending on the tribe and which archeologist you ask. We can take some cues from them. How do I live in such a way that I constantly enrich the land, air and water, increase and protect the diversity of species and pass that on as a legacy so my descendants can continue to live as well as I have for the next 10,000 years?

I do not see any part of the current social, political, or economic systems in place that provide workable, livable answers to any of those questions. What do you think?

Additionally, just saw this segment today on Our Ohio: http://youtu.be/SDPDyk3stwE Granted, it’s not a “strategy to combat global warming,” but it does provide some practical alternatives to either a do-nothing hysteria on one side or a blanket Luddite condemnation of all things industrial.

Mother Jones published this in 2011: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2011/03/denial-science-chris-mooney I think this segment from the first paragraph is relevant:

“A MAN WITH A CONVICTION is a hard man to change. Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point.” So wrote the celebrated Stanford University psychologist Leon Festinger

When I lived in Texas I always liked going way out in the countryside and looking for marine fossils from the time when Texas was completely under water.

And here are rainfall and temperature records for Texas since 1895. What do you think of the data for 2011. Think that’s an anomaly or a trend? Really, it’s just a question…

Texas temp and rainfall graphs:

Budd says: “All you have to do is repeat the lie often enough/get it accepted by pop culure and it becomes perceived as truth.” and I agree completely. And that reality elevates the value of science – that anyone anywhere can ask a question, create an hypothesis and test that hypothesis until it either breaks or is confirmed, and then do it again. And then others anywhere in the world can repeat that experiment and confirm the same results. If the hypothesis isn’t workable, or is a lie repeated for the purposes of propaganda it will get found out. It will not stand. So far we have not found a more consistent methodology for testing for reality than science. Even in the face of intentional fraud and deceit, science will eventually win out by delivering to us the facts of what is. This why we now know that high fructose corn syrup is the preferred nutrient for the growth of cancer cells and that saturated fat not only does not contribute to heart disease (no correlation whatsoever) but in fact it is actually protective – the more saturated fat you eat the healthier you are.

Global warming creates extreme, chaotic, unpredictable, disruptive and extremely violent weather. Those extremes extend further and further into the far outlier ends of the spectrum. When it’s hot, it’s really really hot. When it’s cold it’s so cold that every pipe in my house freezes. When it rains it really really rains and it doesn’t stop. How much of this can modern civilization take before the infrastructure breaks and our global food supply fails? Seriously, think about it. After all, it’s just a question.


Not to mention the ageism within the remark–now isn’t that another whole kettle of fish!

A most disturbing quote:
“A scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”
I know good and well that Nike Sneakers are just shoes and won’t make you run faster but yet the name Nike commands big dollars and their products are highly desired people who want to run faster.
Max Planck said scientific truth and believed it as he came from an age where people believed in absolute truth. But with a clever advertising man or a good propaganda writer or just the plain evolution of pop culture, could not any idea that captures the minds of a new generation become a “cultural truth,” in a generation or so? Has that not happened in our culture?
I could list several of those truths. Just in jest think of this, Smoking tobacco was good and now it is bad, but smoking pot was bad and now it is good.
All you have to do is repeat the lie often enough/get it accepted by pop culure and it becomes perceived as truth.
Just a thought…

We had quite an ice storm last night here in northeast Arkansas. It left a quarter-inch sheet of ice on everything. We lost two big trees and our power was out most of the night. And yet we’re counting our blessings since it wasn’t nearly as bad as the ice storm we had back in ’09. That one left a full inch of ice coating everything, we lost dozens of trees, and we were without power for eight days.

Let me say for the record that I agree with everything everyone has said, especially the disagreements. Three cheers for paradox!

Hmm yah well say the climate’s changing, sure, I don’t like 80’s in my March garden either, but until it starts affecting those whose idea of the environment are (at best) sold by the Discovery channel and Subaru commercials, earth connected means making sure Colin the free-range chicken was a hardcore vegan and their burb looks properly leed certified and landscaped, you can preach all day long, but nobody’s out in it. Try talking when water’s up to the Appalachians. As in, people drowning on a large scale, no check that Americans drowning on a….To us, “the environment” is pretty much an abstract concept although it seems nice and palpable in places along the interstate.

“If there was no possibility of global warming would you continue to burn piles of old tires in your back yard just for the joy of it?” Ha! Actually I know some that might. pure Michigan.

If the weather’s getting extreme, plan for it. If people aren’t buying climate change as gospel, they don’t have to go to our church, do they? Shun em! Live by the letter. A stern beard clipping and deportation to the polar ice caps!

Seriously, open dialogue, and drop the missions. I mean this rhetorically, everybody here seems quite decent. If we feel strongly, maybe our example stands for itself. I love some of the sustainable movement and I homestead on ten acres now in good part to Gene’s contrary idealism… There’s alot of hype and romantics, some quite deserved. But each moment is the universe – each second is a new instance of life here and now. We are so small in the grand picture. Dogma’s a product of the mind. We do really look at everything as though we were gods, flawed roman gods, but we lack the perspective. Science may give us great data but we’re still in our stale old way, treating the symptoms. Real change to reverse what they say calls for nothing less than the undoing of civilization and it’s the elephant in the room here. We can’t fix it because we are it, so just be the best you can.

I’ll have to check back later to see if that made sense! I shamelessly admit that Gene and Budd just now appeared to take turns at a contrary farmer tent revival on my computer. Nothing like a little internet tangent to get ya fired up.

Just in case you think I’m a nutter and an extremist, or as some might say – an alarmist – let me introduce you to a couple articles that explain what some of the science is telling us. And the interesting thing is that for each of these examples we have hard data in the historical record, geology, mud cores and many other sources to remind us that these conditions and circumstances have actually happened before. Again, I’m not saying this is the end of the world, cuz well ya know, life goes on. What I am saying is that if these changes actually occur as they have in the past then we will be living on a very different planet. If we are living at all. Now these folks, these are the real alarmists, and not without reason. I don’t know that they are right, but I cannot say they are wrong either.

Have fun! 😉



For all of you who question climate change being caused by human activity — do you believe that cigarettes cause cancer? We all know people who never smoked but nonetheless got cancer, and those who smoked their whole lives and never got cancer.These are anecdotes. But the science is clear. For years the tobacco industry lied because of their financial stake. In fact, they intentionally made their product more addictive by the manipulation of nicotine levels, but that is besides the point.

I’ve said it before on this blog, and I will say it again…who you gonna believe? the vast majority of scientist pursuing the “truth” (with all its human imperfections), or the hired guns bought and paid for by the worlds biggest, most powerful, most profitable corporations?

What can we do about it? Are you kidding? We need to stop burning fossil fuels! Not altogether and not all at once. Alternatives (sustainable ones too!) exist, but we need to spend resources to make them economically viable. Do you want to spend money on this? or do you want to spend it rebuilding after natural disasters, dealing with drought and famine, fighting wars in the Mideast, ad nauseam?

If you need a number, watch a movie called “Chasing Ice”, if you haven’t yet. Even if you think the science is voodoo, there’s great photography! Also, on PBS’ Nova series, they did a two hour piece last week on the disappearing ice shelves of Antarctica and how it changes our weather patterns.

There are people around who have changed their behavior; two years ago they put in bicycle lanes in some streets in San Antonio! Maybe in ten years someone will actually ride a bike on one. Look at the recent protests against the Keystone pipeline; there are more and more people asking questions about our value systems and conserving energy.

On Feb. 19, I had my first grackle at my feeder, which is pretty early for central Ohio. It hung around for a few days, but I haven’t seen it today, the 22nd. Maybe it’s climate change, maybe it’s a contrary grackle…………

life of the hand - life of the mind February 21, 2013 at 5:15 pm

I posted this quote once before, maybe six months ago. Here it is again. I dedicate it to all of us: to the young, who are frustrated with the old; and to the old, who are wary of the young.

“A scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”

Max Planck

Yes, yes,yes, Budd. Trying to comprehend things beyond what the human mind’s capability appeals the the god center in our brains. That expresses my thoughts so well. I am going to have to write about this next week, for better or for worse. Gene

great post, Gene.. rage on, brother… rage on…. and dont ever stop making snotty comments. ever.

After thinking about this whole subject whilst slogging around in the mud i thought I would come back and sort of apologize. I like this blog and find the folks on it quite interesting. I really resent what I see as the “dogma” of the global warming movement but yet I have goals of living a responsible lifestyle. Sometimes I like to string words together to show how clever I think I am. I think I will go worry about something else for a while now.
Have a nice day.

You might be right Carmine but as a Farmer thats been in the same spot for over 60 years as far as I can see nothing basic has ever changed overall.There have been wet spells,dry spells,good years,bad years,Hurricanes,blizzards and a lot more.Japanese Beetles,Gypsy Moths and other pests have come done their thing and pretty much left the area.No two years have ever been the same that I can remember.On the Global Warming or the coming Ice Age there ain’t a thing I can do about it,so I guess I’ll keep on doing what I’m doing and wait to see if either is for real or just the Chicken Littles coming ’round again.And I will say there have been so many ‘dire warnings’ in my lifetime that most my age have gotten pretty jaded to them and I’m sure one will come true some day or the other but I’m not going to spend time worring which one for real.

This. This is why I love farmers. Pure unbridled practical cynicism that gets right straight to the bottom line. It’s hard for farmers to take advice from someone who doesn’t have a plow in the ground so to speak. I’ve had poultry folks tell me that John Anderson at OSU means well and he’s probably a smart person, but I shouldn’t take everything he says about poultry as gospel. I’m a lot more likely to listen to Bill & Kay Karcher who have a lot more at stake from a practical point of view on this running their hatchery and all.

I think Budd hits the nail on the head – and Gene got us all started – if it’s such a big deal, what do I need to be doing differently in light of this information. And here’s the important part, what are YOU doing differently and were’s the data to support that those actions are actually making any difference?

I agree and disagree, but I do appreciate your sentiment.
I think that as humans we have a compulsion to assign meaning to random events in order to give meaning to our lives. When faced with huge amounts of data from scientific research we interpret it. I we see what we want to see and believe it because we don’t admit our own bias.
I have come to suspect very very strongly that our concern for the possibility of Man-made Global warming comes from our inability to control our own lives.
Big Ag is absorbing all the good ground. There are no local auction houses. Rents are sky high.
We have new laws regarding what we grow and how we sell it. If you run over a tree in your fence row you may have to apologize to your local conservation committee. We are at war with half the world. We have to fill out 1099 forms and reams of paper work. There are taxes and alarming news stories about crazy gunmen and car jackings and home invasions and Asian stinging ants.
Arguing about the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere and going back to horse farming gives us a sense of self determination and community. Plus you get to be in that class of folks that are clever enough to be the first to know something is wrong. And if we end up with global cooling instead you can just say we went with the best data we had, and we just had to do something.
It is a good thing to worry about if it means we use less resources and take care of our soil and live better lives but it is the same thing as worrying about going to hell so you don’t steal.
I disagree with the tornado analogy.
However, I have read many historical accounts of climate change as well as the alarming possibility that the earth’s magnetic poles may shift. I also have heard of huge volcanic eruptions and a year with no summer and a meteor which killed the dinos. Lots of things can and will happen. Heck, I may fall down the tractor steps again and actually break my neck this time.
I am happy to see you have a cause to get impassioned about and to give your life meaning. I can see that it is really working for you and I shall argue no more on this posting.
In fact I think I shall stop annoying you and go to work. This evening I think I will sit in my recycled lazy-boy recliner and listen to the Hank Locklin album I scored at Goodwill the other day, or perhaps some fiddle music. I will do this using my tube powered record player – which I can run off my ancient generator should a solar flare fry all modern electronics. It makes me feel “sustainable.”

Politics and religion are ideologies. Marxism is an ideology. An ideology is nothing more or less than a relativistic intellectual strategy for categorizing the world and because they are generally ideas engaged as intellectual exercises they are usually nothing but trouble. Especially when the ideologists start to put those crazy ideas into action. Just ask anyone in Germany in 1939. Or in Ireland over the last hundred years. Or Cambodia back in the 70’s. Or the former Yugoslavia in the 90s. I could go on but you get the drift.

On the other hand… If the phone rings at 2 AM and you stumble out of bed to answer it, stubbing your toe and cussing out a good one, and you discover it’s your neighbor from two miles down the road. He says to you, “Hey Budd, get you and yer family under cover! There’s a tornado headed towards your farm! GO! GO! GO!” and he hangs up, are you going to consider that an ideology?

Look, I got no dog in this fight. I don’t care what you believe. I have no doubt but that most of the folks on this list are decent, hard-working people that live their lives with the intention of doing the right thing simply because it’s the right thing to do. On the other side of that is the fact that most of you are probably small farmers and as such you have essential skills, insights and resources that contribute profoundly to whether or not you and your communities survive. It’s all over pretty quick if you can’t grow food.

The essential conditions under which we live our lives and run our farms are changing, and they are changing radically. We either get with the program or we get deselected. There’s no ideology in this. It’s pure fact and anyone with an eye to observe the world as it is will see the signs of it right away, even though it may take a while for the magnitude and seriousness of it to sink in. And contrary to popular mythology, climate change is NOT the end of the world. As a friend of mine says, “It’s not an apocalypse, it’s an adventure.” Lumping climate change in with the Mayan craziness, asteroids and all that other new-agey stuff is just nuts.

The science we have is very detailed and very compelling. Just because you don’t like it or you don’t agree doesn’t mean the simple fact of it won’t impact your lives. You can ignore reality all you want, but you cannot ignore the consequences of ignoring reality. It will bite you in the ass every time.

The climate is always changing. Always has and always will. It’s been pretty quiet the last ten thousand years, so we’ve developed some habits of living that depend on that continued quiet climate. But uh-oh, guess what – there’s a rock in the road. The climate is changing again but this time it’s happening inside a few years instead of over millennia. We know an awful lot about what’s happening and why and that’s just the good news. The bad news is that there is nothing much we can do to stop it. That tornado is headed straight for the farm and we need to start thinking now about what we want to do about it.

As farmers you tend to be the most practical, connected-to-the-land types of anyone in modern society. That doesn’t mean there isn’t the occasional idiot or fool among you. I’m sure you all know one or two of them and can tell us some stories. But for the most part you live your lives and do your work within certain parameters – not too hot, not too cold, not too wet, not too dry. All I’m saying is that the tornado bearing down on your farm is going to change those parameters, so when it gets hot it’s going to get REALLY hot. What happens to corn when it’s 130 degrees every day for 3 weeks straight? When it rains, it’s not going to just be an inch a week, it’s going to be two feet in six hours. When it gets dry you may not see a drop for 10 years, depending on where you live. You just might be able to survive this if you start thinking about being flexible and adaptable now.

Weren’t any of you watching the news a couple years ago when the monsoon rains that should have watered the entire continent of India for the season shifted 600 kilometers to the west and flooded out 20 million Pakistani farmers? Looking at the Mississippi and the Missouri basins, do you think that can’t happen here? Did you forget Katrina? Sandy? Irene? Andrew? The 3.5 million acres of forests that burned out west last summer? The current drought that is baking the grain belt right now? There are hundreds of stories like this from all over the world, and they are getting worse and coming faster. Do you really think those events are not all connected?

I live in Maine and the joke is that we have nine months of hard winter and three months of dodging tourists. What do you think happens around here when we get 3 days of 70 degrees in the middle of March when it should be 20 at night and 40 during the day? It confuses the daylights out of the maple trees and flat out ends the entire maple syrup season. Just like that late hard frost last June killed every single one of my apple blossoms so I didn’t have a single apple last year on any tree on my farm. If I had realized what was happening, maybe I could have done something to protect some of those trees.

It’s frikkin February and snowing right now, but 4 days ago it was 60 degrees with bare ground and the frikkin daffodils are poking up. WHAT??? They shouldn’t be doing that for two more months. Back in January we had a cold snap so severe it trashed the entire plumbing system in my house, everything, all the pipes, the water pump, even the toilet froze up hard and blew out the underside. I’ve been in this house 15 years and the most ever froze up was the cold water line in the kitchen. I did not see that coming. And that, my friends, is exactly the point. Most trouble gets us because we didn’t see it coming. The warning signs were too subtle to catch our attention until it was too late.

I’m your neighbor. I’m on the phone telling you there is a tornado headed straight towards your farm. I don’t know how wide it is. I don’t know how fast it’s moving. I don’t know when it’s going to hit, but I sure as hell know what tornadoes do to barns and homes and schools and to the people trapped inside. It’s not ideology when you look at the actual physical world around you and can see for yourself that something is very very wrong. Ignore that warning at your own risk. It’s up to you.

You don’t need a number for the CO2 because it is not about the CO2. It is a belief and an ideology. If it were not high levels of CO2 it would be something else. If it were not global warming it would be global cooling. It stimulates the “god center” of people’s brains. For some reason we cannot live our lives for the sake of living, we have to have a cause.
You take care of the earth, you build the soil, you don’t take more than you need, for the same reasons you don’t steal from your neighbor or you don’t take a crap on your living room floor. When you find better ways to do things you do them. When you find out chemical fertilizers and pesticides are bad you try to eliminate them because they are bad. Why do we have to have an ideology for everything?
If there was no possibility of global warming would you continue to burn piles of old tires in your back yard just for the joy of it? Would you use tons of fertilizer followed by growth regulator and watch your soil die if there were no ideology to support your viewpoint?
I like Gene’s blogs because it all makes sense. I avoid the whole local sustainable crowd because they just get so annoying. I like to sell them non-GMO stuff but the whole end of the world thing gets pretty old. Of course I hate Monsanto, everyone does, but GMO soybeans were not specifically designed to give you an allergy…
It’s all the fault of that durned infernal combustion engine…

Excellent posts, Carmine! Factual and thoughtful, keep up the good work.

Beautiful, Gene! Had I read your post early this a.m., and was able to leave a reply early in the day, I would have simply said, “Ohhhhh, you’re gonna get it!” and left it at that. Many distressed fans of yours just about now, I am sure. Only wish that I could tweak them as well as this post . My sentiments exactly, though.

Heck, I didn’t know that a person could stir up a hornet’s nest in the middle of February. Good stick work, Gene. Stay toasty warm, get ready to start some seeds and live like we just might give a damn about the lives of our great-great grandchildren.

Persimmon Ridge Honey Farm February 20, 2013 at 3:20 pm

We are so much smaller than we’d like to be in all this. I say, live responsibly, do what you can, and then go Italian! Forget about it! Also, the meaning of life is to ENJOY it and to extend yourselves so that others may enjoy it too. The last half of that statement embodies all that we debate here. LOVE to you all… Betty, Persimmon Ridge Honey Farm.

I was at the local diner the other day and my waitress friend was upset and talking about leaving to get her daughter so she could be with her if the earth got hit by the asteroid.

While I appreciate her sentiment, I laughed. And then I promised her that it wouldn’t hit and if it did she could blame me.

Then there are some of my friends who feel the world will come to an end due to President Obama. Blink. Blink.

I am also not convinced that global warming is any more than a glitch in the world’s weather patterns. Could be those solar flares heating us up. I also believe that Mother Nature makes corrections. So if humans are responsible, I expect Mother Nature to step in and kick our butts. Time to prepare for the Zombie Apocalypse.

Gene, great post indeed. Keep stirring up the hornets nest.

Great post Gene. And I agree with the post from Persimmon Ridge Honey Farm.

Persimmon Ridge Honey Farm February 20, 2013 at 1:40 pm

Ahhh, a voice of reason in a wilderness of confusion.

You know I have wondered for some time if the problem was not so much whether the sky was falling or not but rather if it really mattered.
That thought came to me during a wonderful Sunday night revival meeting when I was but a wee skeptical lad.
I was watching the preacher build our emotions with rousing tales of the perils of sin, I don’t remember the text but I remember the voice inflections, and then the congregation swung into “Just as I am,” and everybody went forward.
It came to me that once should embrace virtue for the sake of virtue and not because of any reward or punishment, but rather as a way to deal with the frustrations and temptations of life. Doing the right thing for the sake of doing the right thing is the true and noble calling and being tricked into it by threat of eternal damnation or the promise of California falling into the ocean was not the noble thing to do.
I was going to somehow relate all this to your post about Perspeck but I seem to have lost my way and now my soup is hot and I need to eat my lunch so as I can finish planting my annual ryegrass.
I should just delete it but I invested some ten minutes of my time in this comment and it seems like a shame to erase it. Could copy and paste it somewhere. Hmmmm.
The point was I agree with you, and as I get older I agree more and more and we should live responsibly because that is the right thing to do and not because it will make money for the energy trust or allow some rich dudes to trade carbon credits….
Oh whatever, I don’t know much other than now my soup is getting cold and I’ll have to use the microwave… Raise the sea level another 1/16th I’m sure…

Great Post!First off how do these folks actually measure a 1/2″ difference in the height of the Ocean,since the height constantly changes from the Tides and other forces?The climate of the Earth has always been changing so why would we expect it to suddenly start to remain Static?At any rate I’d welcome the climate Raleigh NC has here in the Blue Ridge Mts.I think the climate science thing is like the folks from the Gov’t that are always trying to tell us how to farm.First its drain the swamps as they are a health hazard and take up productive farmland then its Save the Wetlands,good thing we didn’t get around to draining the swamps or there be no wetlands to save.Then they brought us Multiflora Rose to make great windbreaks and living fences but now if a farmer lets Mulitflora Rose grow on his/her
property the farmer is being negligent.So I guess I’ll do about the same thing in preventing Global Warming as I did draining my swamps nothing until the “Expert Opinions” change then I’ll be in the forefront of the Climate equalivant of “Save the Wetlands”

The first google hit on “amount of co2 in the atmosphere” is this wikipedia page that does not seem to leave any doubt about it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_dioxide_in_Earth%27s_atmosphere

But again, perspek is what matters: CO2 is not the only responsible for global warming, other gases such as methane released as a consequence of human activities actually have a much greater glass house effect, although they are released in much lower quantities (today at least, this could change with the loss of permafrost and the warming of ice waters). That’s why I personally wouldn’t know what to do with a single factor like today’s 395.55 parts per million concentration (http://co2now.org/), I’d rather trust a study that analyzes thousands of parameters to know what to think about climate change. Or see what a practical agency like the USDA has to say to farmers about it.

life of the hand - life of the mind February 20, 2013 at 11:15 am

“Hum, Gene’s blog has been hacked or he’s been very moody lately: Roundup user, climate change denialist, condemning vegetarian/vegan diets, unless it was all ironical… ”

Gene is, remember, “The Contrary Farmer.” And proudly so. I sensed after about my third visit to his blog that irony (“tongue-in-cheek”) plays an important part in his writing. To what degree, I have no idea. I do know that provocation (even the mild Logsdonian kind) drives readership up. And while few of us readers fully understand climate change, all of us readers fully understand the desire to be heard, to be read, to be seen.

Hey Gene, check the IPCC link I posted earlier, they list the carbon in gigatons and they also explain how we can fingerprint which carbon is natural versus which carbon is manmade by tracking the isotope ratios. These numbers are actually fairly well-established science and data that we’ve understood for a long time, contrary to what the deniers would have you believe.

Rick, I’ll get to your other questions later, I have a client in a few minutes. 🙂

Thank you for your candor, Carmine. It took you a lot of words to say it, but “I don’t know” is always a good answer in my book when it’s the best one. Well done.

If climate change represents a disruption that leads to adaptation, isn’t that a good thing? Especially when coming from an ecological succession perspective (which you allude to with the yeast) where organisms create the conditions that prohibit their continued survival in the community, but at the same time create conditions for different organisms to flourish, can we really say climate change is “bad”? As you properly point out, “optimum” is in the eye of the beholder. The key to biodiversity seems to be disruption rather than stability, so shouldn’t we embrace the disruption rather than try to impede it?

I know. The argument is that climate change in the past was natural climate change, but what is happening now is anthropogenic. So let me ask this question then, what is it about anthropoids, products of natural processes, that makes their behavior unnatural? What is the qualitative difference between “natural” phenomena and anthropogenic phenomena that makes it contrary to nature? If we are products of nature, the natural outgrowth of an evolutionary process, how is it possible for us to act in a way or do anything that is contrary to or in opposition to nature? Where does this un-nature come from?

Hey, I am not disagreeing with any of you in your warnings about global warming. All I ask is a number, an accurate number for the amount of CO2 in the earth’s environment and atmosphere. Until I get such a number, and I don’t mean ppbs but an honest to god number for the whole amount, how can I make an accurate judgment on the problem. Far as I can find out, no one knows. Gene

All legitimate questions Rick, but they are based on an assumption that there is an optimum climate. One might ask, for whom? The reality is that this is a living system, Gaia, that includes all species, all the living and non-living elements of the system. Gaia has her own metabolism and homeostasis and she is clearly goal-setting. So if you ask that question in the context of Gaia, then clearly the optimum climate is the one she has hovered around for the last 4 million years, which is the glacial epochs.

Those cold states are very very good for all of life, in fact the abundance of life is profound and significant during an ice age. And remember, what livable land is lost to the glaciers is more than compensated for by the land area reclaimed by the sea levels dropping. That reclaimed area is equivalent to the entire continent of Africa, and the best news is that it’s all edge – that boundary between air, land and sea, which is where all the busiest biological activity is.

If you look in the ice cores, deep sea mud samples and other sources you find that again and again, Gaia returns the climate to the glacial era, no matter how many times the other cycles bounce her out, she evolves species that work to return to the ice age.

In reality, our definitions of optimal climate are not relevant and we can discuss it forever. We as a species evolved in the midst of glacial epochs, and it is only the last 11,700 years – since the end of the Younger Dryas – that we have had climatic stability sufficient for humans to develop modern mass monocropping agriculture. I suspect, and there are others leaning in this direction also, that very fact – our developing modern agriculture – is the very cultural trick that has lead us right to the edge of the cliff.

The climate is always changing, has always changed, but as far as I know, this is the first time a species has acted as a detritovore on a global scale. The consequnces for us may be that we have altered our environment to such an extent that we will now face the same fate as a colony of yeast in a 6 gallon carboy of mead fixins. We may have poisoned our own habitat to the point of our own extinction. We just don’t know yet but we wil certainly find out soon.

In any case, as we see, we have lost the climate stability that led to modern civilization. We are returning to the same level of climate instability in which we evolved as a species. So who knows what will happen. We’ll see. Don’t know if that helps but it’s just what it is.

If it’s any consolation, I’m becoming and old guy too, and I was raised on those same stories, so I know just whatcha mean…

Hum, Gene’s blog has been hacked or he’s been very moody lately: Roundup user, climate change denialist, condemning vegetarian/vegan diets, unless it was all ironical… What does it matter if a carnivorous diet produces a bit less methane if the cows you are eating consume 5 times more vegetal produce and produce 5 times more methane for the same amount of proteins? You need to take some perspek, Gene. 😉

Same with global warming, I am pretty sure scientists have precise estimates of both natural and anthropogenic carbon dioxide and methane production. True, they are estimates, since we don’t have gauges behind every plant, animal, car, or factory, but that’s why scientists always use a range between the most optimistic and pessimistic estimates. The precise temperature increase does not really matter in this perspek, the range or a best guess precise average is good and high enough to decide to change behavior and try to do something about it or just to survive it.

By the way, about survival and adaptation, the USDA didn’t just publish a 180 pages report on climate change, they also produced an adaptation plan that’s open for public review until April if you want to join the people who are doing something about climate change. Link at the bottom of the blog I wrote for Ed: http://hymark.blogspot.com/2013/02/climate-change-by-usda.html

The reason I’m a skeptic is because I’m turning into an old person who, as a teen, was fed a steady diet of Soylent Green, Silent Running, Logan’s Run, Brave New World, 1984, The Population Bomb, Future Shock, and The Late Great Planet Earth just to name a few. Let’s say that I find apocalypticism unbecoming regardless of the genre – cinema, sci-fi, or non-fiction.

While you’ve exposed my ignorance, Carmine, you’ve done little to dispell it. Perhaps I missed it, but what is the optimum climate we should be aiming for? Is it the one we had for the past 30 years? Or the the 30 years before that? Is the Maunder Minimum where we need to be headed or warm period that coincided with the Viking settlements in North America? Do we want the Northwest Passage open or closed? Is it a good think that ocean levels are high enough to create the Bering Strait or do we want the temperatures warm enough and ocean levels low enough that we get the land bridge back?

And just as importantly, why do we want it that way?

Rick says:

“Murray says climate changes are the explanation for the colder winters. Carmine says the last time the climate was as bad as it’s becoming we had crocs in the Dakotas and palms on Baffin Island.

Is it any wonder we don’t listen when alarmists can’t even agree on what is happening. Is it getting colder due to global warming or is it getting warmer due to climate change?”

Actually what Murray said is neither incongruent nor inconsistent with what I said, in fact it’s fully aligned, directly related and in complete agreement with what I said. The real failure is in Rick’s understanding, as he neither comprehended what I said nor did he even bother to read the link Murray provided. This is the penalty we all pay for the failure of our current educational system in teaching people A) how to think critically, and B) to understand what science actually is and how it works.

As we see, the conversation suffers because folks like Rick go for the political opinion and ignorance instead of making an effort to understand the science. Interestingly he calls us both alarmists, when all we are doing is pointing at well-understood scientific data and explanation. There is no controversy about global heating. There are simply 3 groups: 97 percent of thousands of scientists in dozens of disciplines around the world who understand more or less what is happening and are in general agreement about it; the paid flacks owned by the Heartland Institute, the Koch brothers and Exxon-Mobil who are exceptional liars trained to sow confusion; and those who lack sufficient basic scientific education to be able to distinguish between the previous two groups. No question which group Rick is in.

The climate is heating, profoundly so, but where the heating is showing up most is at the poles. The climate system is driven by energy gradients and all our weather is the climate system distributing heat along that gradient. As the planet heats, the poles show more heat gain than the equator. This makes the gradient shallow. The strength of the jet stream changes and in the mid-latitudes the consequence is that the jet stream wobbles, meanders, just as a river does when it comes down out of the mountains and meanders across the plains to the sea. Those deep troughs and ridges extend far to the south and far to the north, bringing very very cold air deep into the US and Europe and unseasonably warm weather too far to the north. Also, we consistently see incredibly strong storms running along the boundary between the intensely cold air coming south and the intensely warm, humid air going north. We are all in jeopardy from these storms. There is no longer any safe place for any of us.

This is directly a consequence of the warming at the poles and the melting polar ice. When you add in the blocking patterns that slow the transition of these deep troughs and ridges then you begin to understand why we are getting such extremes of weather. This is exactly what the models predict. This is why the re-insurance industry considers climate change to be the single most dangerous threat to economic stability of anything currently happening in the world. This is also why the Pentagon and Joint Chiefs considers climate change to be the single most dangrous threat to national security and why they keep running war games and rehearsals for their responses to it.

You are welcome to continue as a climate change denialist, but the risks you take by doing so are all your own. The rest of us are paying attention and trying to figure out how do we develop flexibility and adaptability in the face of extreme and abrupt climate change. Failure to adapt will result in rapid deselection. Darwin was right, and Gaia wins again.

Simply brilliant. All the things I’ve wanted to say except that you said them so much better.

Persimmon Ridge Honey Farm February 20, 2013 at 9:18 am

Come to think of it, bee do limit themselves when resources are low–the queen lays fewer eggs and the workers drag the drones out of the hive to die. Hmmmm…

“I will quit making snotty remarks about it the very second I see a significant number of people, or even an insignificant number, reduce their fuel-burning traveling habit by one mile…”

There are lots of us, Gene. Check out ic.org or gen.ecovillage.org. I’ve cut my carbon emissions by about 90% in the past seven years. In fact, I’m convinced that we’re now a carbon sink, although all the on-line models are so biased by “normal” life-style that their results are irrelevant for us.

“… or when I see one government reduce by one gallon the amount of fuel it burns in pursuit of war or votes.”

They exist, Gene. The Capital Regional District of British Columbia has a long-term fuel-use reduction policy that is already significantly impacting their CO2 emissions. And all food served in their new LEED certified green headquarters must be 100% compostable or reusable — including all disposable serving implements. I just attended a lunch there where we had wooden forks and spoons — into the handy compost bin! And British Columbia itself has the first and only carbon tax in North America.

When all you have is a hammer, all the world looks like a nail. Try using a screwdriver, Gene.

Hey Mr. Logsdon,
My take is that the Global warming debate is neither here nor there. I personally am convinced that global warming is a big deal, but it isn’t going to help to shame myself about it. That reminds me of certain smokers who put a lot of energy into shaming themselves about their habit. If anything, the shaming has the effect of momentarily cleansing their guilt – ironically reinforcing the habit! Hey maybe really taking the time to appreciate a cigarette is the key to quitting. Likewise, what if we really appreciated what an incredible miracle and luxury is the internal combustion engine, but also we considered what a pain in the butt it is in many cases? I bet that would result in more change than our current tendency to hate on ourselves for not being able to stop killing the earth. It’s so easy to get sucked down the conversational drain of debating climate change, and I appreciate your desire to be real about it. Thanks!

Murray says climate changes are the explanation for the colder winters. Carmine says the last time the climate was as bad as it’s becoming we had crocs in the Dakotas and palms on Baffin Island.

Is it any wonder we don’t listen when alarmists can’t even agree on what is happening. Is it getting colder due to global warming or is it getting warmer due to climate change?

Beyond that, since we live in a dynamic system, do we have a baseline established regarding what the optimum is? Do we know what the climate is “supposed” to be? Who says what we have now or for the past century, anyway, is the climate we should keep? And if it is, what’s the basis for the assessment?

Persimmon Ridge Honey Farm February 20, 2013 at 8:45 am

Maybe the best thing to do here is to take a deep breath and recite the Serenity Prayer–Goddess give me the courage to change the things I can and the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference.

I am an agnostic when it comes to global warming (are humans causing it or is it part of a bigger climatic cycle? I’m interested in and open to any scientific, but not political, information), but I do know for sure that humans overall do not live sustainably. Like any invasive species that sucks up all the available resources in an area, the species will collapse or will move on to a new frontier. We have no more new frontiers. Has there ever been an example of a species limiting itself voluntarily so this did not happen? I don’t know.

So maybe it would be best if we just forge on like hogs at the trough and use up all the resources we can, and then we die off to leave the Earth to heal herself without us as she undoubtedly will.

We ALWAYS enjoy your “Perspeck”! BTW, the article “Saint Who?” in this week’s PT really interesta me. Once we return to Ohio, I would love to make an appointment with you to gain some expertise. Enjoying retirement, Vicki Orians

So Gene, let’s talk about carbon dioxide in this incredibly complex, Class IV, non-linear living system that we call Earth and that some folks call Gaia (we’re talking about the hardcore scientists – not those wingnut new age woowoo goddess people). In this planetary living system temperature, carbon dioxide and methane are all coupled. Whatever happens to one happens to the others. One goes up, they all go up. Normally the Milankovitch cycles (our wobbly orbit around the sun) bring the global temperature up a little to kick us out of an ice age. With a bit of a lag time, a century or two, the carbon rises. And within a few years to decades the methane goes up as well. In a healthy earth, the natural systems for carbon and methane pump-down take care of the overage within 20 to 40 thousand years and we go back into an ice age again for another one or two hundred thousand years. In a healthy earth, atmospheric carbon residence time for any particular atom is about a hundred years before eHux (the phytoplankton) removes it permanently by storing the carbon in their calcium carbonate shell, which falls to the ocean floor. That’s been the pattern for about 4 million years.

Then along come humans and a couple hundred years ago we discover fossil fuels. Bingo – everything changes. Carbon dioxide is a vanishingly small percentage of our atmosphere, and during a glacial period it averages only 180 parts per million. During an interglacial such as we have been experiencing since the rise of agriculture, maybe 10 or 11 thousand years, the carbon levels are at 280 parts per million. We have absolute hard data on this fact. This is a very important idea to understand: the difference between an ice age and an interglacial is ONLY 100 parts per million of atmospheric CO2! 100 parts per million variance of carbon dioxide produces an 18 to 25 degree temperature shift for the entire planet – ice age to interglacial and back again, over and over for millions of years. Do you understand how closely balanced and sensitive this system is?

Because of the damage we humans have done to the natural living systems that manage CO2, the residence time is now over 800 years, so as a consequence, every single carbon atom we throw up there stays and stays and stays. Carbon levels now are at 394 parts per million (at least 114 ppm too high) and rapidly headed towards 500 because of our fossil fuel economy. The last time carbon levels were that high – 55 million years ago – there were crocodiles in North Dakota and date palms on Baffin Island in the Arctic Circle. That was called the PETM. Feel free to look it up.

Carbon dioxide levels are rising, and that speed of increase is also accelerating. The scariest thing now is that human influence has triggered other tipping points, so now the natural world is outgassing more carbon than we humans are. As an example, the Amazon rain forest, instead of being a carbon sink which it is when it’s healthy, has now become a carbon source, putting more carbon into the atmosphere than all of North America’s industry and cars combined. What is troubling is that it no longer matters what the source is, the reality is that there is just way too much CO2 and even if humans stopped every single activity that produces CO2, it would still continue to increase now because of the damage we have done to the natural systems. If all humans died tomorrow, this planet would still see a thousand years or more of continued heating because of all the various flywheel effects we have set in motion.

When CO2 hits 500 parts per million the oceans die. This is a complex combination of effects from hyper-acidity and from temperature stratification. The last time the oceans were dealing with 500 ppm of CO2 the planet lost 70 percent of all benthic and pelagic species. We are facing the same trouble now. The entire climate system is incredibly sensitive to the balance of heat gained to heat released back into space. The current imbalance is a heat gain of 6 tenths of a watt per square meter. Now that doesn’t sound like much until you do the math. That’s enough extra heat to vaporize all the sea water in Sydney Harbor every 12 hours. Or put another way, that’s the equivalent heat to exploding 2 Hiroshima-sized bombs every second of every day since 1961. All of that heat should have radiated back out into space but instead, because of all the extra CO2, that heat is going into the air, the oceans, and worst of all, it’s melting the polar ices on both caps, north and south. Look up what happens to ice and water temps when impacted by what is called latent heat. Nobody is paying attention to this but that is where the big temperature leaps will come in. As soon as the ice is gone we are totally and permanently screwed.

There is just too much heat in the planetary system now. Ice will soon vanish permanently from everywhere on earth and even if the thermohaline circulations fail, we are already too warm to go back to an ice age. We are facing a hot-state planet and a climate shift that is a one-in-55-million-year event. You are about to witness the evolution of a very different planet, one that has not been here in a long long time.

These changes may or may not wipe out humans as a species. We just don’t know. But what we do know is that it will most certainly wipe out modern industrial civilization. This much heat in the global system means we will continue to have extreme, chaotic, intensely violent weather on a scale and frequency that we have never seen before. Imagine a Katrina, a Sandy, an Irene and an Andrew every single week. There comes a point where humans will just not have the resources to repair the constant damage. One of the consequences of this wide variability in severe weather is that the infrastructure for modern agriculture fails. Not just the growing regions, but also the processing and distribution. Anything that interrupts the oil supply translates to massive starvation worldwide within weeks.

So the bottom line is that it’s not sunspots, it’s not cosmic rays, it’s not the Milankovitch cycles or any of the other crap the deniers have been spouting. All that stuff has been debunked for a long long time. The physics and chemistry of this system are impervious to ignorance and opinion. The problem is tipping points and positive feedback and that the human influence is everywhere and has already pushed everything over the edge. Maybe, if we had never discovered oil and left it all in the ground, this planet might have supported a billion humans indefinitely. But now, given the damage we have done to the system, humans will be lucky if any of us at all survive the next hundred years.

If you want a better understanding of the climate issues read Dianne Dumanoski’s book, “The End of the Long Summer” and also read this:


If you want to understand the biological limits to human growth in this closed system then read William Catton’s book Overshoot.

If you want good data and the well-understood science regarding human vs natural outgassing of CO2 I would recommend the IPCC FAQ sheet here:


There is a glimmer of possibility in all this. If all humans everywhere immediately switched all our land over to permaculture style food forest practices, conserving water in the soil and using animals to regenerate soil health, if we stopped using fossil fuels at all and ended our carbon outputs, we might – might I say – turn this global catastrophe around. But because of the carbon residence time it would still take a thousand years before we found out if it worked.

Oh, and Gene, regarding the issue of healthy diets – meat, eggs and dairy are the healthiest foods you can eat, and by far and away the healthiest for the soil and planet. As the Masai say, “Plants are food for cows.” 🙂

Any questions, feel free to give me a shout. It’s the least I can do in return for all your wonderful contributions to my own understanding. 🙂

It is easy to make fun of politicians and governments, but it is not very learned to dismiss
the short and long term implications of global warning caused by humans. Google the insurance industry’s response to global warning for a real perspective, or perhaps just ask an Eskimo.

A more relevant inquiry today might be the Supreme Court ruling in the Monsanto case.

Outstanding post. I’m amazed by how quickly people start panicking over the littlest things, especially without taking the time to see if there’s more to the story. Thanks!

Yes good points. My global warming chicken little friends have not changed their lifestyles to be less harmful to the environment. But they vote Democrat and believe that in doing so they “have done their part.”

I have been reading your blogs and books for awhile, Gene, and I must say that this is one of your best pieces ever. Science changes; at one point science “knew” that the earth was flat. To think otherwise was foolish. We must be humble enough to realize that what we see through our science may only be our current perspeck, in 10 or 100 years we may “know” that today’s science is rubbish. Who knows?

Gene, since you no longer have that kindly editor to remind you of the importance of ‘perspec’, please consider this plea…a shift in perspective is more important now than ever..


Through your writing you’ve always been such an inspiration and a welcome, affable companion. This one you’ve got so wrong. What happens in the arctic does matter. Your current drought matters. It’s all the same under the paper thin whisp of atmosphere clinging to our tiny blue planet. Your vision of the ecology of a farm, with all it’s interconnection, is so clear…please see that that truth scales up to the planet, there are no fencelines that matter. People are afraid, upset and angry and rightfully so…we need to empower them to create changes, not trivialize their concern What we do matters, more now than ever.

p.s. the CO2 value that is significant is the change in concentration and the science is conclusive about that

here is an example of how changes in the arctic affect US weather..

Gene! I’m ashamed. You’re smart enough to know that the AVERAGE interval of 100 million years could be as far distant as 200 million or as near as 1 million years. You better start worrying now, if Certain Doom is only 1 million years away!


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