Links of the Month: September 2023

an old cartoon by Michael Leunig, from his fans’ Facebook site.  “What has been lost…”

All around me are familiar faces, worn out places, worn out faces
Bright and early for the daily races, going nowhere, going nowhere
Their tears are filling up their glasses, no expression, no expression
Hide my head, I wanna drown my sorrow, no tomorrow, no tomorrow

And I find it kind of funny, I find it kind of sad
The dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had
I find it hard to tell you, I find it hard to take
When people run in circles, it’s a very, very
Mad world, mad world

Children waiting for the day they feel good, Happy birthday, happy birthday!
And I feel the way that every child should — sit and listen, sit and listen
Went to school and I was very nervous, no one knew me, no one knew me
“Hello, teacher! Tell me, what’s my lesson?” Looked right through me, looked right through me

And I find it kind of funny, I find it kind of sad
The dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had
I find it hard to tell you, I find it hard to take
When people run in circles, it’s a very, very
Mad world, mad world
Roland Orzabal


wind and solar energy remain an insignificant source of energy, as oil, gas and coal dependence continues unabated; chart from Our World in Data

Collapse goes (briefly) mainstream: CNN actually interviews a climate scientist about collapse without challenging or dismissing his statements.

Why we’re running out of affordable energy: Tim Morgan explains in detail, one more time, the imminent collapse of cheap, affordable energy, which spells the end for industrial civilization.

Badmouthing collapse realism: First it was Rebecca Solnit “doomer-shaming” collapsniks for telling the truth about the inevitability of ecological collapse. Renaee Churches was one of many to reply to her offensive and divisive Guardian article. Then it was Rachel Donald arguing (her word) with her guest, Bill Rees, on the same subject, on her podcast. At least she followed up with an article acknowledging what Rebecca has not — that we have to work together to deal with the climate crisis, not fight among ourselves over how bad it is. Thanks to Indrajit Samarajiva and Paul Heft for the links.

Protection racket: As social collapse deepens, especially among the homeless, sick and poor, the ultra-rich, and even government authorities, are responding by hiring their own private police and security forces. This is not a good sign.

Close to extinction, the first five times: There have been at least five times in the last million years when humans nearly became extinct, all with different causes but all of them related to sudden drastic climate change. The latest study suggests the human population 900,000 years ago dropped to as little as 1,300 people.

Move that shit over here: The Honest Sorcerer describes how much of our non-renewable energy consumption consists of moving goods and materials around to where we are, and explains that that need is expected to triple by 2040. Ain’t going to happen. Thanks to Paul Heft for the link.

“Forests are no longer our friends”: David Wallace-Wells, in a masterful understatement, explains that massive and ubiquitous forest fires have switched our forests from being net carbon sinks to net carbon emitters.

The Maldives as a microcosm of climate collapse: Coming soon to nations everywhere.


‘accommodating’ sculpture by Tuck Langland in the Goshen IN public library; image from the memebrary

How to really address rising crime: Better social supports, instead of more police. Well, duh.

Mutual willing incomprehension: Political detente and peace require a willingness by all ‘sides’ to try to really understand the others — both what they are actually trying to do, and why. This is obvious, but in all our major current conflicts, such willingness, and even capacity, is absent.

Moving from self-help to collective action: The key to achieving change, says the author of this year’s Massey Lectures, is re-learning how to collectively organize to fight existing power structures.

The myths of happiness: Claims that people are happier if they exercise, spend time in nature, pursue “mindfulness/meditation”, and have active social lives, are simply not supported by credible evidence. They’re just psychobabble.

#1 tip for internet content providers: It’s ignore the trolls.


Cartoon by Colombian cartoonist Boligan, from Cartooning for Peace

Corpocracy, Imperialism & Fascism: Short takes (thanks to John Whiting for many of these links):

Propaganda, Censorship, Misinformation and Disinformation: Short takes:

CoVid-19 the Gift That Keeps On Giving: Short takes:


cartoon by Christopher Weyant in the New Yorker

We owe everything to trees: Fascinating article by Jill Lepore traces our dependence on trees as our homes for most of our time on earth, as our source of fire which was essential to our capacity to migrate from our early forest homes, for our earliest weapons to survive as hunters, for paper and books, and many other purposes. The earliest human age should, she says, be called the Wood Age, as it was more transformative than those named after stone or metals. She describes some of the reasons we might have been forced to abandon these Edenic structures as our homes, but strangely omits the cosmic ray theory, that suggests the forests were all burned several million years ago by an exploding Nova. Thanks to Kavana Tree Bressen for the link.

State security secrets!: A priceless exploration into AI by Thomas Wade, who asked ChatGPT what tactics the US security state could use to undermine, gaslight and control us, and got a list of 500 mind-blowing methods. The list would be falling-down-funny if it weren’t exactly what propagandists and sociopaths (and probably most governments) actually do. Thanks to Peter Webb for the link.

Being adopted by a cat: A charming tale from Indrajit Samarajiva. Some things are the same the world over. 

Things are  not as they seem: Another gem from Indrajit about the nature of reality and the stories we tell about it, inspired by a visit from the tooth fairy.

Abandoning the Big Bang myth: Webb telescope data suggests our mythological stories about the origin of the universe just don’t jibe with the facts. Sadly, our response always seems to be to create an even more complicated story. I’m absolutely convinced that if we gave up storytelling and just accepted, as adults, that we cannot possibly hope to know the true nature of the universe and its origins, it would be a great step forward.

No, there is no new global mental health crisis: There are many surveys and news headlines suggesting the current political and social stresses have created a monstrous new global mental health crisis. But drill down into the data and you’ll find it’s only American youth who are suffering. And a more likely cause of that is their unhealthy addiction to social media.

Mindfulness: The useless billion dollar industry: There is absolutely no credible research that ‘mindfulness’ meditation has any enduring therapeutic value whatsoever, beyond the placebo effect. And no, it doesn’t help you lose weight either.

Headline from the Beaverton (Canadian version of The Onion): “Toronto Goodwill asking people to stop donating Leafs jerseys” (ask a Canadian)

Mitch McConnell’s brief flash of humanity: The moment he had his mini-strokes, or whatever they were, the monster in Mitch briefly disappeared, and a real person appeared. A lovely read.


“Sadness”, by Midjourney AI. Not my prompt.

From Matt Haig, in The Midnight Library:

Nora had always had a problem accepting herself. From as far back as she could remember, she’d had the sense that she wasn’t enough. Her parents who both had their own insecurities, had encouraged that idea.

She imagined, now, what it would be like to accept herself completely. Every mistake she had ever made. Every mark on her body. Every dream she had ever made. Every dream she hadn’t reached or pain she had felt. Every lust or longing she had suppressed.

She imagined accepting it all. The way she accepted nature. The way she accepted a glacier or a puffin or the breach of a whale.

She imagined seeing herself as just another brilliant freak of nature. Just another sentient animal, trying her best. And in doing so, she imagined what it was like to be free.

From Caitlin Johnstone, on western xenophobia and propaganda and on Hollywood’s copaganda and psyopaganda:

Nothing will shatter your dreams of a broad left-right antiwar coalition faster than publicly opposing US warmongering against both Russia and China simultaneously.


Hollywood overdubs the [wimpy peeps of the] bald eagle with the [more powerful-sounding screech of the] red-tailed hawk in precisely the same way it depicts police officers as spending their time fighting crime, and depicts news reporters as brave muckrakers digging for the truth to expose the wicked and corrupt, and depicts soldiers as heroic defenders of the American people.

From Scott Cook — his latest song “A Bigger Pull” (thanks to Kavana Tree Bressen for the link — song has not yet been released):

I got friends who live in cities with brewpubs and bike lanes
Who got sweet tattoos and charcuterie, and ancient grains
Who seek out the finest, frothiest flat whites and macchiatos
Who eat cheese made out of cashews and CBD gelatos

And I got friends who live in small towns and like to shoot at deer
Who like dogs that like working, who like beer that tastes like beer
Who say yes sir, and thank you ma’am, and even God bless y’all
Who castrate and brand and have a testicle festival

And where my city friends are careful with the language that they use
Some of my country friends just get a kick out of trampling on taboos
But if I call and tell ’em I’m broke down, they’ll be there in an instant
My city friends would ask, “don’t you have roadside assistance?”

I got friends who give their kids names like Leaf and Tree and Arlo
Who feel like their fellow grownups failed the grownups of tomorrow
And I got friends who give their kids names like Colton and Shelby
Who think teachin”em to respect the flag and their elders is healthy

I got friends who go to seminars and ayahuasca retreats
Who might spill their deepest secrets to the kindred souls they meet
And I got friends who don’t say a lot, but mean everything they say
Who believed every word of Scripture (’til their daughter turned out gay)

I’ve seen forests of culture flattened by the money machine
All the houses with Black Lives Matter signs and no black folks to be seen
And I got friends who’d never hunt or fish but love their surf and turf
And me, I’m burning diesel drivin’ ’round singing songs to save the Earth

Sometimes it hurts to hear my friends talk about some of my other friends
Like everything that’s going wrong has somehow got to do with them
As if they’re so completely different they just can’t be understood
As if one side’s all bad and the other side’s all good

But from a certain angle they look similar to me
Whether they get worked up by Fox News or MSNBC
I’m not saying there aren’t real concerns, no, everybody’s got ’em
Just that it’s less about the left and right than the top against the bottom

‘Cause a few folks aim to own the world and they’re well on their way
And no matter what crisis comes, they’ll make sure they’re okay
They’ll short-sell and hedge and make profit from misery
If they wanna catch a bunch of fruit they just gotta shake the tree

Well, the left I loved was punk rock and Food Not Bombs
Now it’s cancelling comedians and policing language norms
Greenwashing corporations with whatever’s on brand
With the fresh new hell they’re dreaming up in Davos Switzerland

Well, correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t it with less of a smirk
That our Grandpas fought the fascists and built all the public works?
Back when unions gave us weekends, faced the bosses and their thugs
How come now it seems so joyless, censorious and smug?

With an ever-narrowing circle who think just like we do
We went from we are the 99% to we are the chosen few
If we’re gonna move the needle, if we even have a chance
What’ll it take to make all us snowflakes into an avalanche?

And didn’t conservative used to mean careful and considered
Rather than racing to sell off everything to the highest bidder
Weren’t lying and cheating condemned in the Bible
Didn’t there used to be a wheat pool to keep the farmers viable?

Is there something wrong with public roads, the library and post office?
And who really thinks it’s a good idea to run prisons for a profit?
Now we all believe in freedom, what about the freedom to live?
And not to go bankrupt buying medicine for your kids?

There ain’t no one who’s just one thing, there ain’t nothin’ uncomplicated
There ain’t one without the other, man, we’re all interrelated
We belong to one another, we drink from the same cup
Stop throwing punches at each other and start punching up

Fortune favours the fortunate, it don’t trickle down
Gonna need most of us paddling to turn this ship around
Gonna need a tent big enough to fit most of us inside
Gonna need a bigger pull to turn the tide

From Confucius: “The hardest thing of all is to find a black cat in a dark room, especially if there is no cat.”

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4 Responses to Links of the Month: September 2023

  1. Paul Reid-Bowen says:

    Thanks Dave, I always look forwards to your monthly link drops; always a few new things to chew on and follow up.

    To be fair, Rachel Donald’s conversation with Bill Rees wasn’t really too bad. She gave him a bit of pushback, but largely based on some mutual misunderstanding of key terms (and I suspect Bill misreading the audience). Their subsequent email exchange, which is published, clarifies everything in a very mutually respectful way.

  2. Felipe says:

    “I’m absolutely convinced that if we gave up storytelling and just accepted, as adults, that we cannot possibly hope to know the true nature of the universe and its origins, it would be a great step forward”. Great comment from you. Fascinating to see that even the Big Bang theory is just a story, another tale that we Humans created to explain something unknowable.

  3. “The myths of happiness: Claims that people are happier if they exercise, spend time in nature, pursue ‘mindfulness/meditation’, and have active social lives, are simply not supported by credible evidence. They’re just psychobabble.”

    That claim is not supported by the article linked to. The article discusses one review of other research, which found various reasons to toss out much of the existing evidence (studies were removed for being too short, too small, or–most problematic–focused on participants who were unhappy when the study started), and then concluded from the small remainder that there is insufficient evidence to say these things help. If one is going to refuse to allow any studies of depressed people, for example, into the mix, that’s not a fair review of available evidence.

  4. Dave Pollard says:

    The claim of the meta-review authors, which supports what may skeptics of the social pseudosciences have long argued, is that the reports, recommendations and assertions of these pseudosciences do not stand up to any kind of rigorous scientific scrutiny or examination. Real science requires following a process that the pseudosciences simply cannot meet. Just one example is the scientific approach of starting with hypotheses that are falsifiable, and then working exhaustively to attempt to falsify them, before claiming those hypotheses seem to be true. What is trotted out as ‘verified fact’ in the pseudosciences is merely the scientifically unsubstantiated and unsubstantiable consensus of opinion of this year’s ‘in’ group of professors and practitioners, to keep those practitioners in business and meet publication goals. That applies to everything produced in the pseudosciences, from the latest version of the DSM to CBT and 12-step and all the rest.

    The authors of the metastudy are merely reporting that the Emperor has no clothes, and never has had. They are not saying that mindfulness meditation and communing with nature and so on are NOT useful in increasing happiness, they are simply saying that there is no credible body of scientifically supportable evidence that they do.

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