Links of the Month: December 2023

image from Midjourney AI; not my prompt

None of it makes sense. It all makes sense. Or rather, none of it has to make sense. It is not about what is sensible, or in any group’s rational self-interest. We will go mad if we try to justify our headlong charge into civilizational chaos and collapse, our staggering cruelty to non-human creatures and our hate-fuelled slaughter of millions of other humans, as being logical, sensible, rational, or within anyone’s control.

This is what the relentless conditioning of billions of humans in our horrifically overcrowded world, riven by fear, hatred and insecurity, inevitably has led to. It could not have unfolded any other way, and will continue to unfold the only way it can, with all of us, doing our (mostly lousy) best, helpless to change it. Nothing to do with ‘pure evil’, or madness (unless you count the ubiquitous mental stress of living like rats jammed into a cage wracked by scarcity and dread as a form of madness). It’s just how this civilization is playing out. For most of us in the west, everything is slowly falling apart. For those in much of the world, collapse is already well-advanced.

All that can possibly be done is to accept it, and to start to learn to adapt to what is happening now and what is undeniably going to happen. And we can’t even do that.


What happens when governments decide that social support during a pandemic is “too expensive” to sustain; thanks to Indrajit Samarajiva for the link. Imagine what will happen when the government, bankrupted by military spending and economic collapse, abandons its social security and health commitments to its citizens.

Jim Hansen talks with Paul Beckwith: The retired NASA Director explains how the IPCC is absurdly underestimating the pace of climate collapse, as catastrophic warming of 2ºC is now likely within 15 years, and 10ºC of warming is now ‘baked in’ based on pollution levels already exceeded. Meanwhile the UNEP similarly underestimates warming, saying their current projection is just 3ºC by 2100.

Human population to fall back below 2B this century: Population expert Bill Rees crunches the numbers on how many people a climate-ravaged planet could support. And that’s with just 4ºC of warming.

Five more tipping points: A new report describes five more catastrophic tipping points that will be unleashed when we pass 1.5ºC of warming, which is now likely to happen this year instead of the 2030 date predicted just two years ago.

Frauds take over COP28: Hundreds of lobbyists looking for government funding of debunked technologies like Carbon Capture and Storage, and Cap-and-Trade systems, have turned COP28 into a farcical industrial trade fair.

Smoke-and-mirrors “growth”: The Honest Sorcerer explains how economic contraction, a prelude to economic collapse brought on by the end of cheap energy, is now occurring, disguised by fake GDP numbers counting financial and legal “activities” that produce nothing of value and add nothing to the economy. Thanks to Paul Heft for the link.

The health costs of climate collapse: The Lancet has projected a staggering number of heat deaths, deaths from drought and starvation, and deaths from a surge in tropical diseases by mid-century, again based on just 1.5ºC to 2ºC of warming.

Alberta methane release underestimated by 50%: The Alberta oil industry and government regulators have failed to count a third of the horrifically-damaging methane released by its oil & gas projects.

Do we have the ‘free will’ to tackle climate collapse?: Energy expert Richard Heinberg summarizes Robert Sapolsky’s new book denying human free will, and comes down uncomfortably on the “yes, we kind of have some” fence. Ouch. Thanks to Bart Anderson for the link.


cartoon by Michael Leunig, of course

How not to age: Michael Greger’s new book, with 13,000 citations of research reports, summarizes what we all can do to live healthier and longer lives using just diet and exercise. Caveat: He’s a whole-plant-food supporter who warns about paleo and low-carb diets, with the research to back it up. Video summarization of the book here. Transcript of that video here. Kind of folksy review of the book including an interview with Michael here.

Learning from “the Troubles”: Naked Capitalism suggests, without much hope, that the slow, careful, patient process used to achieve a lasting peace in Northern Ireland might be useful for those seriously looking to achieve peace in Palestine.

More books to understand the world: Part 2 of a list of books useful for both appreciating the history of the challenges we face in the world, and coping with them. Even includes some books on non-duality! (If you’re interested in the earlier post, Part 1 is here.)

What (most of) the world considers human rights: The UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Kinda depressing how flagrantly they’re being violated and ignored by countries that at least at one time signalled that they supported them. Thanks to Gerry Gras for the link.

Gabor Maté on what we need as children: Why secure attachment and authenticity from early childhood are so important to our mental health, and how trauma destroys them: Brief, brilliant, six-minute clip from a recent interview with Gabor, despite the annoying interviewer.

Self-Directed Learning: A summary of how SDL differs from “schooling”. Thanks to Tasha Gee for the link.

The pseudoscience of “homeopathy”: A sparkling takedown by Rebecca Watson.


Blinken/Biden peace protesters; video from CBC

What if there are no answers to many current conflicts?: Aurélien delves at length into some of the most long-lasting and scarring conflicts in modern history, and suggests there may be nothing that we can do to heal them. Excerpt:

It’s not just that western interventions have often been disastrous, it’s that the belief in “solutions”, particularly inclusive, just, equitable, comprehensive, lasting etc. etc. is a misunderstanding of the situations we are confronted with, and a misreading of history. The struggle between dominant and subordinate groups, and the drawing of nation-state borders have been violent affairs throughout history. We may be able, and we should certainly try, to make the process more rapid and less bloody where we can. But we should not fool ourselves into thinking there are “solutions” ready to implement. Sometimes the best that we can do is to manage intractable problems as well as we can. Sometimes there is no way out.

And Aurélien follows up in a later article with an analysis of how fear and oppression work in a reinforcing cycle in areas of conflict, inevitably leading to calls for a “final solution” to end the cycle (though that has never worked successfully). Excerpt:

If your objective is explicitly to create an ethno-nationalist-religious state, then the very presence of people of a different ethnicity or religion within your state is a security threat, which you are bound to fear will one day destroy you. This leads ineluctably to a policy of repression, exclusion from power, and ultimately expulsion and violence. But with every hostile act against other populations, you start to fear, quite reasonably, that you are creating even more resentment which will one day blow back against you. But you cannot change your objective, then that fear leads to more repression, which leads to more fear, which leads … And in the end, voices arise, saying that the only real solution is the complete expulsion, or even extermination, of the Others, and logically they are right, for some values of “solution.”

So what we are seeing in Gaza is not a “war”, or a national or international armed conflict, though it might superficially resemble one. It is the age-old story of the use of violence by the strong against the weak, in order that the strong should dominate and control the territory they claim, and thus feel safe. And it is hard to see why this episode should end any more positively, or any less violently, than comparable previous episodes in history have done.

Corpocracy, Imperialism & Fascism: Thanks to John Whiting for many of these links. Short takes:

Propaganda, Censorship, Misinformation and Disinformation: Short takes:

CoVid-19 as The New Normal: Short takes:

  • The latest global data shows a levelling off of excess mortality in most countries in recent months (though the data is woefully slow being released by many countries), and it suggests CoVid-19 remains the fifth commonest cause of death in the world in 2023. I continue to mask in crowded indoor spaces, isolate and test when feeling unwell, and get the latest boosters, all of which this data supports.
  • It appears we are going to do nothing to mandate better ventilation in busy public venues like restaurants, schools, and workplaces. Not surprised.


cartoon by Charlie Hankin in the New Yorker

The strange bedfellows of UnHerd: The right-wing Conservative-funded platform has drawn in former progressives like Paul Kingsnorth and Rhyd Wildermuth. They share the stage with racists, warmongers, anti-vaxxers, and right-wing conspiracy-theorists. Cognitive dissonance, anyone?

Kim Quindlen’s tiny hilarious cultural anthropology: Kim’s short videos, poking fun at our (and her) most bizarre and little-noticed proclivities, are masterful. Unfortunately only on X. Thanks to Raffi for the link.

The second-class treatment of autoimmune disease sufferers: Thanks to medical system ignorance, lack of profitability, and lack of glamour, sufferers of autoimmune diseases are less likely than those suffering from other conditions, to get proper diagnosis, funding or care for their disease.

War is over (if you want it): 700 people sing the John Lennon classic.

The SAT question everybody got wrong: No peeking ahead in the video to see the correct answer. No, I got it wrong too.

No singularities, please, we’re Kiwis: Theoretical physicist Sabine Hossenfelder is astonished to read that Roy Kerr, a New Zealand-based expert in their field, has proved that a fundamental assumption about black holes, articulated by Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose, is simply wrong.


fridge magnet from Cedar Mountain Studios

From Anne Boyer, letter resigning from her post as NYT poetry editor (thanks to Lyz Lenz for the link):

I have resigned as poetry editor of the New York Times Magazine. The Israeli state’s U.S-backed war against the people of Gaza is not a war for anyone. There is no safety in it or from it, not for Israel, not for the United States or Europe, and especially not for the many Jewish people slandered by those who claim falsely to fight in their names. Its only profit is the deadly profit of oil interests and weapon manufacturers.

The world, the future, our hearts—everything grows smaller and harder from this war. It is not only a war of missiles and land invasions. It is an ongoing war against the people of Palestine, people who have resisted throughout decades of occupation, forced dislocation, deprivation, surveillance, siege, imprisonment, and torture. Because our status quo is self-expression, sometimes the most effective mode of protest for artists is to refuse.

I can’t write about poetry amidst the ‘reasonable’ tones of those who aim to acclimatize us to this unreasonable suffering. No more ghoulish euphemisms. No more verbally sanitized hellscapes. No more warmongering lies. If this resignation leaves a hole in the news the size of poetry, then that is the true shape of the present.

From Caitlin Johnstone, post entitled I Will Not Look Away:

I will not look away. No matter how horrific it gets, I will not look away. No matter how many children I see killed and injured in the most gruesome ways imaginable, I will not look away.

No matter how much human suffering I see by keeping my gaze on Gaza, I will not look away. No matter how many nightmares I have, I will not look away. No matter how many tears I shed, I will not look away.

No matter how many reasons the propagandists and manipulators come up with for me to turn my gaze elsewhere, I will not look away. No matter how many insults and accusations I am tarred with for refusing to look away, I will not look away. No matter how much easier it would be to look away, I will not look away.

I will not avert my gaze. I will not become distracted. I will not lose myself to the sedated stupor of escapism. I will not do my best to pretend that everything is normal and that life is basically fine. It’s a paltry offering, really. Almost nothing. But it’s all I’ve got to offer: this simple, sacred vow to honor the victims by refusing to look away from what’s being inflicted upon them. To be here for it, to the furthest extent possible.

The people of Gaza are suffering far more than I have ever suffered, and probably far more than I ever will suffer. But, in my own meagre and entirely insufficient way, I can try to make sure they’re not suffering on their own. To the extent of one person’s gaze, one person’s attention, one person’s reverence, I can ensure that the world has not turned their back on them. I can ensure that, to that extent, they are not forgotten.

That way even if my other efforts fail, if all our collective efforts fail, if the activism comes up short, if we fail to open enough eyes and apply enough pressure in the necessary places, then at least their deaths, their losses and their anguish will not have slipped by unnoticed. Unappreciated. Unvalued. Unwitnessed.

I will not look away, because these lives matter and I have a duty to honor them. I will not look away, because that would be giving the bastards what they want. I will not look away, because even in my powerlessness to help I still have the power to bear witness. I will not look away, for the same reason that when my parents are dying I will hold their hand and stay by their bedside until they are gone.

Even if we can’t stop this, at the very least we can give them our seeing. At the very least we owe them that.

From Nesrine Malik, in the Guardian:

The truth, too hard to accept, is that there is nothing you can do. You can write to your MP, you can march, you can protest. And the killing continues. As that happens, a jarringly bloodless account of the conflict is given by political leaders in countries like the US and UK, one that seems to omit the sheer fact and number of the deaths and resorts instead to an almost surreal language that calls for “every possible precaution” to protect civilian life. UN officials, not known for intemperance, now lose their cool and use the strongest terms possible, in what seems to be a direct result of this weird insistence on not calling reality what it is. The day before the truce, Gaza authorities put the death toll at 14,532.

That’s where the sense of losing your mind comes from: the fact that it seems, for the first time that I can think of, western powers are unable to credibly pretend that there is some global system of rules that they uphold. They seem to simply say: there are exceptions, and that’s just the way it is. No, it can’t be explained and yes, it will carry on, until it doesn’t.

From Derek Walcott, from Collected Poems 1948-84:


Let the day grow on you upward
through your feet,
the vegetal knuckles,

to your knees of stone,
until by evening you are a black tree;
feel, with evening,

the swifts thicken your hair,
the new moon rising out of your forehead,
and the moonlit veins of silver

running from your armpits
like rivulets under white leaves.
Sleep, as ants

cross over your eyelids.
You have never possessed anything
as deeply as this.

This is all you have owned
from the first outcry
through forever;

you can never be dispossessed.

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5 Responses to Links of the Month: December 2023

  1. Vera says:

    Dave, you say: “They [eg Kingsnorth et al] share the stage with racists, warmongers, anti-vaxxers, and right-wing conspiracy-theorists. Cognitive dissonance, anyone?”

    Aren’t these people our brothers and sisters, kith and kin, too? Where is your compassion?

    I am thinking that Kingsnorth, who is no stranger to controversies, finds a free speech platform more friendly than hanging with people who stand ready to shriek — like Donald Sutherland in Invasion of the Body Snatchers) — at anyone who dares to trot out a provocative opinion.

  2. Dave Pollard says:

    I can understand why people conditioned and driven by fear and hatred become racists, warmongers, anti-vaxxers and right-wing conspiracy theorists.

    What I can’t understand is why previously coherent, rational people like Paul and Rhyd would choose to use the same platform for their articles as these damaged people. UnHerd isn’t like Facebook, a deplorable-enough behemoth, indifferent disseminator of misinformation, and time-waster. UnHerd is specifically funded by ultra-conservatives to provide a platform for the dissemination of the kinds of hate, fear, and misinformation its rich founder believes in (eg anti-Arab, anti-Moslem screeds), and lists Paul, alongside the hate-mongers, on its “Our Columnists” page.

    I’m working on an article about this, but it’s complex — the seeming disintegration of what used to be considered “the left” over the past decade or so is perplexing, and seems to be largely an inadvertent ‘inside job’.

  3. Theresa says:

    TEN degrees of warming!
    I now am beginning to worry about a runaway greenhouse effect and if that could really happen. Could we really destroy all life on earth forever? Becoming like Venus? Notwithstanding that Venus happens to be the only other planet in the universe where we have “discovered” extraterrestrial life (not that anyone remembers that particular but if news in the current era of history)

  4. Brutus says:

    Listening, reading, or talking to someone is not equivalent to endorsement. Neither is platforming. I’ve often listened to podcasts hosted and funded by people with whom I disagree. The aphorism “keep your friends close, your enemies closer” may apply. So yeah, strange bedfellows indeed, but cognitive dissonance? Not really. The same goes for changing opinions and propositions. Kingsnorth has wavered all over the map in his time as a public figure. Doesn’t bother me. Don’t we all grow and learn?

  5. Dave Pollard says:

    I think most of us grow and learn. Some, maybe the more sensitive among us, find it hard to cope, and retreat. Understandable, but when it’s someone you’ve met and come to know somewhat, it’s a bit sad, IMO.

Comments are closed.