Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of a cancer cell

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Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of a cancer cell

Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of a cancer cell


In this episode of Wine, Women, and Revolution, Heather interviews professor and climate scientist, Guy McPherson. Guy is an emeritus professor at University of Arizona and teaches in the School of Natural Resources. He joins Heather to talk about catastrophic climate change, capitalism, and near-term extinction.

Guy McPherson

Professor McPherson specializes in ecology and environmental biology.  He has been a professor for over 20 years and taught at Texas A&M and University of California as well as University of Arizona. Guy also worked for The Nature Conservancy in their home office in Virginia. His qualifications are exemplary, so when someone like this begins telling us we have only a few years left on the planet his words need to be heard.

Near-Term Extinction

10 years ago, Professor McPherson talked about how abrupt climate change could lead to human extinction by 2100, which is still a number some scientists focus on. Upon further reflection he moved his date up to 2050. Finally, he arrived at his current prediction that homo sapiens could go extinct as early as 2026. The exact date may be hard to determine precisely, but we are in the midst of a mass extinction. Although actual extinctions are still relatively rare, population decline is in full swing across billions of populations. Species are dying out because of habitat destruction, pollution, climate change, and the impacts of human population.

Self-Reinforcing Feedback Loops

There are certain environmental cycles which continue to trigger themselves over and over. These are known as positive feedback loop. Guy has been tracking these loops we have triggered on his blog at  Mr McPherson has come to the conclusions that civilization is a heat engine that is constantly pumping out more and more heat, but due to global dimming we aren’t actually seeing the full effects of the damage we are doing. If we turned off that dimming, we could heat the planet up to 1 C within a few short weeks. Civilization, and especially the disaster capitalism of the United States is not working well for anyone or thing.

Global Dimming or Aerosol Masking Effect

Carbon in the atmosphere has a very long half-life.  If we stooped all carbon use today it would still be years before we saw the effects. In addition, there is a delay or lag between the emission of and the heating from carbon released. We would continue heating for years before we saw the long-term results. In addition to all that full results of our actions are hidden from us. As we release carbon, we also release aerosols. Some of these stop heat in the atmosphere before it can get to earth. Those aerosols will fall out of the atmosphere within weeks and led to a dramatic surge in temperature. Guy believes there is no way that the habit needed for humans to live can continue through that. Everything needed for human survival will quickly cease to exist.

Is there anything to do?

Guy believes it is too late to save ourselves, but what we can do with our time left is to ease human suffering. There is no specific place to move to ride out the coming devastation. Early on in his assessment, he had suggested moving as far south as possible and even convinced apple CEO Steve Wozniak to move to Tasmania. His opinion on that has changed due to his thoughts that there will be cascading nuclear meltdowns. *In writing this piece I reached out to a retired nuclear safety officer with questions about the possibility of these meltdowns. The answer I received was “Not exactly”. Chernobyl type meltdowns are extremely unlikely. Even if staff had to evacuate in a short time period, they could flood the reactors with boron and make it non-reactive. What could happen is the spent rods in the cooling pools could begin producing hydrogen and explode if they were not being maintained at cool temperatures. These explosions could be dangerous but no more dangerous than the literal apocalypse happening outside that resulted in the abandoning of the nuclear reactors. So, the answer doesn’t make you feel better really*

Be a decent human being

You have the option of opting out of the system that is driving us to extinction. Capitalism is causing suffering. Professor McPherson is an anarchist and believes that is the only way to really rid us of the harms of capitalism. Guy became an anarchist in college after reading the works of Edward Abbey. The title of this article is a quote from Edward Abbey. Guy is also a fan of modern writer Doug Peacock.

What causes the most suffering?

I asked Guy what the 3 most harmful aspects of capitalism are. His answers were:

1) The idea of ownership. When 4 people can own more wealth than the bottom 50% of people on the planet it shows something is drastically wrong.

2) The idea of capital being extended to every aspect of the planet and animals. Everything is an exploitable resource. Animals become meat of the hoof instead of a possible relationship.

3) The idea of a positive interest rate. It makes the future less valuable than today. This causes the exploitation of today. We cannot have unlimited growth. Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of a cancer cell, and we are acting like a cancer.

You can find all of Guy McPherson’s writings at on his blog Nature Bats Last.

9 comments on “Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of a cancer cell

  1. Kevin Hester says:

    Infinite growth on a finite planet was always going to end very badly and like any terminal diagnosis it arrives like a monumental slap in the face. Even though we all know that we have limited time, when that time runs out we are all shocked that it could arrive so suddenly. In many of his talks Guy quotes the words of the worlds oldest woman who was 117 and when asked what it was like to live so long and she responded “It seemed rather short”.
    One of the great Edward Abbey quotes is “Infinite growth is the idealogy of the cancer cell”. How could the infinite growth paradigm not end badly and suddenly?
    For me one of the fascinating aspects of this extinction event is the cognitive dissonance of the culprit species. 200 species going extinct daily and the one holding the flame thrower, dripping in fossil fuels expects to be spared the flames.
    Cognitive dissonance at the edge of extinction shows to me the insanity and delusion of the dominant culture.
    Good luck everyone, we’re going to need it.
    Follow my and Guy’s radio show Nature Bats Last on The Progressive Radio Network on the first Tuesday of the month 3pm EST.There are 121 shows in the archive.

  2. Andrew Shaw says:

    I find the most peaceful result of digesting Near Term Human Extinction is stopping to blame x group, x industry, x ism, x religion, x party, etc. The reality is this outcome was sealed as soon as we began civilizations instead of tribes. Farming instead of hunting and gathering. Then we added crack cocaine in the way of fossil fuels, then pure cocaine in the way of nuclear energy.

    We are past the point of no return and it’s best to accept we were born into the end of human existence. Let’s relax, try to close the nuclear power plants, ASAP and reduce the suffering of as many living beings as possible. End vitriol and finger pointing. End Holier than thou mentality. We’re all heat engines and we all contribute to destruction of the planet, regardless of how many solar panels we own or how much recycling we do. Peace Out.

  3. Steve Tober says:

    Wondering if you can follow up on the links that you asked Guy for: Doug Peacock an others. Thanks

    1. Heather Warburton says:

      We can do even better. I have an interview with Mr Peacock scheduled for December. In the mean time you can check out his work here.

      1. Pat Fahy says:

        When is this Doug Peacock interview? I’ve read three of his books about grizzlies. He’s a wonderful writer.

        1. Heather Warburton says:

          Once he returns from his vacation we will record. It should go up sometime later in December.

        2. Heather Warburton says:

          The Doug Peacock interview will go up on Jan 21st. Its on our calendar, just wanted to specifically give you a heads up. I recorded the interview yesterday and he was amazing.

  4. john turcot says:

    As a firm believer in the global warming condition of the planet, it is difficult to argue vehemently with Guy McPherson’s assessments of our condition. Difficult however does not imply infallible. I have followed Mr. McPherson’s reasoning and conclusions for at least 5 years, never doubting the sincerity of his predictions.

    Having written the above, I have also noticed that differing with Guy McPherson’s conclusions in any way invites derision, and that, at least for myself, somewhat mitigates the dire predictions he has presented. The reasons why I think his predictions can be suspiciously viewed is that Dr. McPherson, as he often attests, is not a climate scientist. As such, and even though he has connected many feedback-looped dots to the dire scenarios he has presented, there are also a few loopholes which appear on the predicted horizons he has envisioned, with mitigating factors that could alter the conditions that may prevail in the not too distant future.

    Given enough time however, there is little doubt, if any, that the human condition under which we humans have chosen to live on the planet will eventually prove lethal to all of us.

    My personal premonitions of a doomsday scenario are based more on war, or the threat of nuclear war, than on other factors. When we as a species can elect and democratically choose Donald Trumps to command nuclear arsenals, the future doesn’t look very bright. Moreover, with the human condition exhibiting the fact that a reporter can walk into a national embassy and be killed using inhumane methods ordered by a kingdom which expects hundreds of billions of dollars worth of military hardware from the rest of humanity and get away with it is, in and of itself, a sign that we are in very deep trouble as a species.

    Global warming is but one of the factors represented a terminal condition for Homo Sapiens. Either we get our brains together and act outside the proverbial boxes from which we originated, or our origins may no longer have any significance.

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