Wednesday, October 01, 2014

The Buffalo Wind

I've talked more than once in these essays about the challenge of discussing the fall of civilizations when the current example is picking up speed right outside the window.  In a calmer time, it might be possible to treat the theory of catabolic collapse as a pure abstraction, and contemplate the relationship between the maintenance costs of capital and the resources available to meet those costs without having to think about the ghastly human consequences of shortfall. As it is, when I sketch out this or that detail of the trajectory of a civilization’s fall, the commotions of our time often bring an example of that detail to the surface, and sometimes—as now—those lead in directions I hadn’t planned to address.

This is admittedly a time when harbingers of disaster are not in short supply. I was amused a few days back to see yet another denunciation of economic heresy in the media. This time the author was one Matt Egan, the venue was CNN/Money, and the target was Zero Hedge, one of the more popular sites on the doomward end of the blogosphere. The burden of the CNN/Money piece was that Zero Hedge must be wrong in questioning the giddy optimism of the stock market—after all, stock values have risen to record heights, so what could possibly go wrong?

Zero Hedge’s pseudonymous factotum Tyler Durden had nothing to say to CNN/Money, and quite reasonably so.  He knows as well as I do that in due time, Egan will join that long list of pundits who insisted that the bubble du jour would keep on inflating forever, and got to eat crow until the end of their days as a result. He's going to have plenty of company; the chorus of essays and blog posts denouncing peak oil in increasingly strident tones has built steadily in recent months. I expect that chorus to rise to a deafening shriek right about the time the bottom drops out of the fracking bubble.

Meanwhile the Ebola epidemic has apparently taken another large step toward fulfilling its potential as the Black Death of the 21st century. A month ago, after reports surfaced of Ebola in a southwestern province, Sudan slapped a media blackout on reports of Ebola cases in the country. Maybe there’s an innocent reason for this policy, but I confess I can’t think of one. Sudan is a long way from the West African hotspots of the epidemic, and unless a local outbreak has coincidentally taken place—which is of course possible—this suggests the disease has already spread along the ancient east-west trade routes of the Sahel. If the epidemic gets a foothold in Sudan, the next stops are the teeming cities of Egypt and the busy ports of East Africa, full of shipping from the Gulf States, the Indian subcontinent, and eastern Asia.

I’ve taken a wry amusement in the way that so many people have reacted to the spread of the epidemic by insisting that Ebola can’t possibly be a problem outside the West African countries it’s currently devastating. Here in the US, the media’s full of confident-sounding claims that our high-tech health care system will surely keep Ebola at bay. It all looks very encouraging, unless you happen to know that diseases spread by inadequate handwashing are common in US hospitals, only a small minority of facilities have the high-end gear necessary to isolate an Ebola patient, and the Ebola patient just found in Dallas got misdiagnosed and sent home with a prescription for antibiotics, exposing plenty of people to the virus.

More realistically, Laurie Garrett, a respected figure in the public health field, warns that ”you are not nearly scared enough about Ebola.”  In the peak oil community, Mary Odum, whose credentials as ecologist and nurse make her eminently qualified to discuss the matter, has tried to get the same message across. Few people are listening.

Like the frantic claims that peak oil has been disproven and the economy isn’t on the verge of another ugly slump, the insistence that Ebola can’t possibly break out of its current hot zones is what scholars of the magical arts call an apotropaic charm—that is, an attempt to turn away an unwanted reality by means of incantation. In the case of Ebola, the incantation usually claims that the West African countries currently at ground zero of the epidemic are somehow utterly unlike all the other troubled and impoverished Third World nations it hasn’t yet reached, and that the few thousand deaths racked up so far by the epidemic is a safe measure of its potential.

Those of my readers who have been thinking along these lines are invited to join me in a little thought experiment. According to the World Health Organization, the number of cases of Ebola in the current epidemic is doubling every twenty days, and could reach 1.4 million by the beginning of 2015. Let’s round down, and say that there are one million cases on January 1, 2015.  Let’s also assume for the sake of the experiment that the doubling time stays the same. Assuming that nothing interrupts the continued spread of the virus, and cases continue to double every twenty days, in what month of what year will the total number of cases equal the human population of this planet? Go ahead and do the math for yourself.  If you’re not used to exponential functions, it’s particularly useful to take a 2015 calendar, count out the 20-day intervals, and see exactly how the figure increases over time.

Now of course this is a thought experiment, not a realistic projection. In the real world, the spread of an epidemic disease is a complex process shaped by modes of human contact and transport.  There are bottlenecks that slow propagation across geographical and political barriers, and different cultural practices that can help or hinder the transmission of the Ebola virus. It’s also very likely that some nations, especially in the developed world, will be able to mobilize the sanitation and public-health infrastructure to stop a self-sustaining epidemic from getting under way on their territory before a vaccine can be developed and manufactured in sufficient quantity to matter.

Most members of our species, though, live in societies that don’t have those resources, and the steps that could keep Ebola from spreading to the rest of the Third World are not being taken. Unless massive resources are committed to that task soon—as in before the end of this year—the possibility exists that when the pandemic finally winds down a few years from now, two to three billion people could be dead. We need to consider the possibility that the peak of global population is no longer an abstraction set comfortably off somewhere in the future. It may be knocking at the future’s door right now, shaking with fever and dripping blood from its gums.

That ghastly possibility is still just that, a possibility. It can still be averted, though the window of opportunity in which that could be done  is narrowing with each passing day. Epizootic disease is one of the standard ways by which an animal species in overshoot has its population cut down to levels that the carrying capacity of the environment can support, and the same thing has happened often enough with human beings. It’s not the only way for human numbers to decline; I’ve discussed here at some length the possibility that that could happen by way of ordinary demographic contraction—but we’re now facing a force that could make the first wave of population decline happen in a much faster and more brutal way.

Is that the end of the world? Of course not. Any of my readers who have read a good history of the Black Death—not a bad idea just now, all things considered—know that human societies can take a massive population loss from pandemic disease and still remain viable. That said, any such event is a shattering experience, shaking political, economic, cultural, and spiritual institutions and beliefs down to their core. In the present case, the implosion of the global economy and the demise of the tourism and air travel industries are only the most obvious and immediate impacts. There are also broader and deeper impacts, cascading down from the visible realms of economics and politics into the too rarely noticed substructure of ecological relationships that sustain human existence.

And this, in turn, has me thinking of buffalo.

In there among all the other new stories of the last week, by turns savage and silly, is a report from Montana, where representatives of Native American peoples from the prairies of the United States and Canada signed a treaty pledging their tribes to cooperate in reintroducing wild buffalo to the Great Plains. I doubt most people in either country heard of it, and fewer gave it a second thought. There have been herds of domesticated buffalo in North America for a good many decades now, but only a few very small herds, on reservations or private nature sanctuaries, have been let loose to wander freely as their ancestors did.

A great many of the white residents of the Great Plains are furiously opposed to the project. It’s hard to find any rational reason for that opposition—the Native peoples have merely launched a slow process of putting wild buffalo herds on their own tribal property, not encroaching on anyone or anything else—but rational reasons are rarely that important in human motivation, and the nonrational dimension here as so often  is the determining factor. The entire regional culture of the Great Plains centers on the pioneer experience, the migration that swept millions of people westward onto the prairies on the quest to turn some of North America’s bleakest land into a cozy patchwork of farms and towns, nature replaced by culture across thousands of miles where the buffalo once roamed.

The annihilation of the buffalo was central to that mythic quest, as central as the dispossession of the Native peoples and the replacement of the tallgrass prairie by farm crops. A land with wild buffalo herds upon it is not a domesticated land. Those who saw the prairies in their wild state brought back accounts that sound like something out of mythology: grass so tall a horseman could ride off into it and never be seen again, horizons as level and distant as those of the open ocean, and the buffalo: up to sixty million of them, streaming across the landscape in herds that sometimes reached from horizon to horizon.  The buffalo were the keystone of the prairie ecosystem, and their extermination was an essential step in shattering that ecosystem and extracting the richness of its topsoil for temporary profit.

A little while back I happened to see a video online about the ecological effects of reintroducing wolves to Yellowstone Park. It’s an interesting story:  the return of wolves, most of a century after their extermination, caused deer to stay away from areas of the park where they were vulnerable to attack.  Once those areas were no longer being browsed by deer, their vegetation changed sharply, making the entire park more ecologically diverse; species that had been rare or absent in the park reappeared to take advantage of the new, richer habitat.  Even the behavior of the park’s rivers changed, as vegetation shifts slowed riverine erosion.

All this was narrated by George Monbiot in a tone of gosh-wow wonderment that irritated me at first hearing. Surely it would be obvious, I thought, that changing one part of an ecosystem would change everything else, and that removing or reintroducing one of the key species in the ecosystem would have particularly dramatic effects! Of course I stopped then and laughed, since for most people it’s anything but obvious. Our entire culture is oriented toward machines, not living systems, and what defines a machine is precisely that it’s meant to do exactly what it’s told and nothing else. Push this button, and that happens; turn this switch, and something else happens; pull this trigger, and the buffalo falls dead.  We’re taught to think of the world as though that same logic controlled its responses to our actions, and then get blindsided when it acts like a whole system instead.

I’d be surprised to hear any of the opponents of reintroducing wild buffalo talk in so many words about the buffalo as a keystone species of the prairie ecosystem, and suggesting that its return to the prairies might set off a trophic cascade—that’s the technical term for the avalanche of changes, spreading down the food web to its base, that the Yellowstone wolves set in motion once they sniffed the wind, caught the tasty scent of venison, and went to look. Still, it’s one of the basic axioms of the Druid teachings that undergird these posts that people know more than they think they know, and a gut-level sense of the cascade of changes that would be kickstarted by wild buffalo may be helping drive their opposition.

That said, there’s a further dimension. It’s not just in an ecological sense that a land with wild buffalo herds upon it is not a domesticated land. To the descendants of the pioneers, the prairie, the buffalo, and the Indian are what their ancestors came West to destroy. Behind that identification lies the whole weight of the mythology of progress, the conviction that it’s the destiny of the West to be transformed from wilderness to civilization. The return of wild buffalo is unthinkable from within the pioneer worldview, because it means that “the winning of the West” was not a permanent triumph but a temporary condition, which may yet be followed in due time by the losing of the West.

Of course there were already good reasons to think along those unthinkable lines, long before the Native tribes started drafting their treaty.  The economics of dryland farming on the Great Plains never really made that much sense. Homestead acts and other government subsidies in the 19th century, and the economic impacts of two world wars in the 20th, made farming the Plains look viable, in much the same way that huge government subsidies make nuclear power look viable today. In either case, take away the subsidies and you’ve got an arrangement without a future. That’s the subtext behind the vacant and half-vacant towns you’ll find all over the West these days. That the fields and farms and towns may be replaced in turn by prairie grazed by herds of wild buffalo is unthinkable from within the pioneer worldview, too—but across the West, the unthinkable is increasingly the inescapable.

Equally, it’s unthinkable to most people in the industrial world today that a global pandemic could brush aside the world’s terminally underfunded public health systems and snuff out millions or billions of lives in a few years. It’s just as unthinkable to most people in the industrial world that the increasingly frantic efforts of wealthy elites to prop up the global economy and get it to start generating prosperity again will fail, plunging the world into irrevocable economic contraction. It’s among the articles of faith of the industrial world that the future must lead onward and upward, that the sort of crackpot optimism that draws big crowds at TED Talks counts as realistic thinking about the future, and that the limits to growth can’t possibly get in the way of our craving for limitlessness. Here again, though, the unthinkable is becoming the inescapable.

In each of these cases, and many others, the unthinkable can be described neatly as the possibility that a set of changes that we happen to have decked out with the sanctified label of “progress” might turn out instead to be a temporary and reversible condition. The agricultural settlement of the Great Plains, the relatively brief period when humanity was not troubled by lethal pandemics, and the creation of a global economy powered by extravagant burning of fossil fuels were all supposed to be permanent changes, signs of progress and Man’s Conquest of Nature. No one seriously contemplated the chance that each of those changes would turn out to be transient, that they would shift into reverse under the pressure of their own unintended consequences, and that the final state of each whole system would have more in common with its original condition than with the state it briefly attained in between.

There are plenty of ways to talk about the implications of that great reversal, but the one that speaks to me now comes from the writings of Ernest Thompson Seton, whose nature books were a fixture of my childhood and who would probably be the patron saint of this blog if Druidry had patron saints. He spent the whole of his adult career as naturalist, artist, writer, storyteller, and founder of a youth organization—Woodcraft, which taught wilderness lore, practical skills, and democratic self-government to boys and girls alike, and might be well worth reviving now—fighting for a world in which there would still be a place for wild buffalo roaming the prairies: fought, and lost. (It would be one of his qualifications for Druid sainthood that he knew he would lose, and kept fighting anyway. The English warriors at the battle of Maldon spoke that same language: “Will shall be sterner, heart the stronger, mood shall be more as our might falters.”)

He had no shortage of sound rational reasons for his lifelong struggle, but now and again, in his writings or when talking around the campfire, he would set those aside and talk about deeper issues. He spoke of the “Buffalo Wind,” the wind off the open prairies that tingles with life and wonder, calling humanity back to its roots in the natural order, back to harmony with the living world: not rejecting the distinctive human gifts of culture and knowledge, but holding them in balance with the biological realities of our existence and the needs of the biosphere. I’ve felt that wind; so, I think, have most Druids, and so have plenty of other people who couldn’t tell a Druid from a dormouse but who feel in their bones that industrial humanity’s attempted war against nature is as senseless as a plant trying to gain its freedom by pulling itself up by the roots.

One of the crucial lessons of the Buffalo Wind, though, is that it’s not always gentle. It can also rise to a shrieking gale, tear the roofs off houses, and leave carnage in its wake. We can embrace the lessons that the natural world is patiently and pitilessly teaching us, in other words, or we can close our eyes and stop our ears until sheer pain forces the lessons through our barriers, but one way or another, we’re going to learn those lessons. It’s possible, given massively funded interventions and a good helping of plain dumb luck, that the current Ebola epidemic might be stopped before it spreads around the world. It’s possible that the global economy might keep staggering onward for another season, and that wild buffalo might be kept from roaming the Great Plains for a while yet. Those are details; the underlying issue—the inescapable collision between the futile fantasy of limitless economic expansion on a finite planet and the hard realities of ecology, geology, and thermodynamics—is not going away.

The details also matter, though; in a very old way of speaking, the current shudderings of the economy, the imminent risk of pandemic, and the distant sound of buffalo bellowing in the Montana wind are omens. The Buffalo Wind is rising now, keening in the tall grass, whispering in the branches and setting fallen leaves aswirl. I could be mistaken, but I think that not too far in the future it will become a storm that will shake the industrial world right down to its foundations.


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josh keiler said...

"in what month of what year will the total number of cases equal the human population of this planet? "

I was hoping the answer would be at the end of the essay... I admit it, I'm lazy, and I'd like to know...

Sven Williams said...

"Our entire culture is oriented toward machines, not living systems, and what defines a machine is precisely that it’s meant to do exactly what it’s told and nothing else. (...) We’re taught to think of the world as though that same logic controlled its responses to our actions, and then get blindsided when it acts like a whole system instead."

If there were ever a snapshot summary of the most valuable insight your writings have imparted on me, the above would be it. Thank you for that!

I find myself wondering how the American public health system would respond to a pandemic, particularly one with multiple epicenters. Quarantine is not too viable an option at that scale, and even less so when we can no longer afford the same kind of equipment and training that's kept that horseman at bay for the last 150 or so years. Can you recommend any good sources on the Black Death? All that comes to my mind is images of doctors wearing beak-shaped masks full of herbs, and a burly guy with a cart walking around shouting 'bring out your dead'.

It also reminds me that after the dust settled and the dead were buried, the lot of the average Johannes improved considerably --- population pressures alleviated, social hierarchies shaken up, and systems of belief and signification put seriously to the test. Is that too much to hope for on this side of Hubbert's curve?

Tom Bannister said...

Your line about treating everything like a machine reminds me of a conversation I had with an economics student a while back. We were briefly discussing a solution to the problem of arts students not getting jobs after graduating. I said, 'that's quite a complex problem, I'm not sure'. His response? take away student loans/ allowances for arts students. I tried to point out that this was a fairly linear unimaginative response and his response was something like 'well the fact of the matter is decisions have to happen, often in a short space of time!' sigh. Now I'm not saying his idea was totally wrong but just the treating every problem like a machine without any consideration of wider feedback loops/effects that I found a bit well... disturbing. Its like, here's a problem lets draw a line- A to B there you go problem solved!!!

Good to hear about the Buffalos though! I've heard many sad stories about European colonization and the drastic effects it had on the American Mid west. Its nice to hear some positive news. I suspect a similar religion of progress attitude (that opposes reintroducing buffalos) hampers efforts to clean up rivers and lakes here in New Zealand. While few will disagree here with the idea of a cleaner environment, any questioning of the activities of Farmers here (they who shall be obeyed without question!)) will bring a big: Do You Want To Shut Down The Economy and Take Us back to the Stoneage?!!!

Mark Sebela said...

Oh, give me a home where the Buffalo roam.......

There are actually three versions of the song, (1876)(1904)(1910) and if you go to the link you can read them side by each. What is interesting are the lyrical changes in the 1904 version. I think they document the increasing industrial mentality of the day quite accurately.

Grebulocities said...

Given what's happened in the past week, I figured this week would feature one of those posts that postpones whatever the next planned post would have been, and instead talks about real-world crises going on that deserve our full attention. I've been following you for two years now and, in that (short) timespan, this is the week a post like this has been needed most. I’ll admit to refreshing the browser window a number of times through the afternoon and early evening waiting for it.

My median-case prediction for the current Ebola outbreak is that billions of people won't die of it in the next year (although my answer to your question is September 17, 2015 at 7.2 billion current population). Instead, it becomes one of those diseases that just happens from now on, like multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis. The world adjusts to the fact that a new disease has appeared that kills a few million a year in developing countries along with occasional outbreaks in developed ones. Maybe we get lucky and develop a new vaccine, saving rich-world people from their already reduced risk of the disease. But I’m picturing a fat-tailed probability distribution with my best guess at a ~10% chance of a global pandemic. Not exactly the odds we want with a disease that has a CFR somewhere in the 50-70% range.

I previously thought about pandemics from time to time, but I dismissed Ebola - given its historical pattern of killing most of the people in a few African villages but dying out in humans because it killed people too quickly to propagate, I suspected it was fairly low on the list of likely pandemics, far below a 1918 flu repeat or something of that nature. But biological entities in general, and RNA viruses in particular, evolve rapidly when an obvious opportunity presents itself, such as 7.2 billion closely connected and susceptible apes on the same planet. I would like to admit to the Ebola virus, and to the horseman Pestilence in general, that I underestimated them. Unfortunately this is not a horseman that is likely to spare anyone in exchange for a good microbrew. I salute it anyway.

Thinking about it more clearly than I would have otherwise, I’m actually really surprised that we only managed to suffer one post-1950, new, pandemic disease, severe enough that even the richest countries had to pay attention to it: HIV/AIDS. Given the frantic effort throughout the intervening years to connect all of the world economically, and the exponential increase in global travel that came along with the exponential phase in global economic growth, I would have expected several in that timespan if I were an alien observing Earth as we observe a Petri plate. Do you agree?

Ventriloquist said...

JMG --

The Mainstream Media is starting to wake up -- or at least a few of their ilk. This is from MarketWatch, for crying out loud, and it is deeply pessimistic about the American attitude toward climate change:

Yupped said...

Yes, it's getting real out there. It always has been, I suppose, but for the last few decades the noise of the progress machine was pretty deafening and hard to argue with. Anecdotally, my sense is that a lot of people's optimism tanks are running dry, and there is not much left to get them through a couple of serious crises, whether economic, public health or something else. But we'll see how close we are to Naked Emperor time. I think we're pretty close, but I'm ahead of the doom curve and mostly these days I just do my duty and don't talk much about it all.

But the duty is rewarding. It's been a great summer in the garden in the North East, and the fall looks promising. We've put up more food than ever this year, just made 3 quarts of fire cider and beer is brewing away. And today we ate entirely from the garden: eggs, potatoes, kale and bean soup, salad and fruit. A good life can be really, really simple. A lesson we're all going to need to learn again the hard way it seems.

thepublicpast said...

Sitting here with a good breeze coming through the window, I feel as if the Buffalo Wind is coming.

I'm not sure why I was never very surprised when I learned that industry was not infallible. Perhaps it was due to my childhood in the Canadian rustbelt. When every factory in town looks like a ruined castle, it's hard not to realize that all this will pass. Perhaps a community that has accepted that the better days are gone is a little better equipped to think about the future. Judging from the actions of my municipality, it has had absolutely no effect, but alas. If you know where to look, the ruins are still there

steve pearson said...

Somehow the increasingly strident denials of peak oil and attacks on any questioning of the myth of infinite growth remind me of the reports in the German press in the latter years of WWII of greater and greater victories over the Soviets.Yet somehow the victories kept moving further and further west.
Also when I was in the US army in Korea in 1969 most of our maneuvers were, quite sensibly, geared around retreating if the North Koreans came over the line again.However this was referred to as a retrograde maneuver, not retreat. I made the mistake of referring to it as retreat and was threatened with quite severe punishment if I did this again. Just like Jiminy cricket: wish and repeat and it shall be so.

Kylie said...

My family are farmers, and recently they sold a very good farm - good soil, lots of water. One of the things that tells me this system is fundamentally broken is that the interest earned from the sale money is about twice what the farm could produce when run well. In Australia, a well-run farm will produce about 2% of its sale price as commercial product, while the same money in the bank will get 4%. Something's gone wrong, somewhere.

Fleecenik Farm said...

My concern with regards to Ebola is the potential of it spreading as folks go to, and then return from, the haj. This most recent case in Texas seems like just the sort of slip in a supposed system that could occur just enough times, in just a few regions to really turn this global.

Pinku-Sensei said...

Your juxtaposition of the denunciation of Zero Hedge by CNN with the Ebola epidemic was most fortuitous. In the wake of the first Ebola case diagnosed in the U.S., markets fell more than one percent for the day as anything involving transportation got clobbered. The only stocks that did well seem to be the ones of companies that could make vaccines for Ebola. Despite the exhortations of authority figures, including physicians, politicians, and the press, not to panic, investors did exactly that. I don't blame them.

As for the other half of your essay about the reintroduction of the bison to reservations on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border, that ties into two of my lectures. One of them I gave a couple of weeks about about the lack of integration between the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service around Yellowstone National Park. Inside the park, the bison are protected. Outside the park, the Forest Service allows ranchers to harass the buffalo and herd them back into the park. Things were worse for years before that. Because of fears of brucellosis passing from the wild animals to cattle, bison in the National Forests could be shot! Recently, I read that practice has stopped. The same page that reported that good news also mentioned the reintroduction of bison that you reported. I see it as a good thing.

The other lecture is one I'll give tomorrow about the effects of keystone species and trophic cascades. I can add the anecdotes about wolves and bison that you related to that explanation. That should be both entertaining and enlightening.

Speaking of animals that produced winds, last month was the 100th anniversary of the death of the last passenger pigeon. Both of the major state universities here in Michigan are hosting exhibits on the extinction of the species. That event connects to the survival of the bison because the loss of the passenger pigeon, which used to number in the billions, made people realize that the bison and other once-abundant species could follow them into oblivion and should be saved. So the bison were, and may roam again because people heeded the warning.

Renaissance Man said...

For some reason, as I read this, I could not help but recall some artwork on a 1970s album cover -- no idea what the band was -- that featured a group of plains Amerindians sitting around a campfire, nestled for the night in the overgrown ruins of a highway overpass cloverleaf.

Bike Trog said...

At least one city water department is doing mass shutoffs for overdue bills.

GHung said...

From the essay: "....the unthinkable can be described neatly as the possibility that a set of changes that we happen to have decked out with the sanctified label of “progress” might turn out instead to be a temporary and reversible condition....

...indeed, our greatest liability, I would posit. An infected fella leaves West Africa and is in Dallas mere hours later (with at least one stop-over), ends up at the hospital where he's "treated and released" only to be diagnosed a few days after he's apparently exposed others. One wonders if the (corporate) hospital even wanted to know what he had. Who wants to be ground zero of the Great North American Ebola Outbreak? Either way, this could only have happened in a high-speed global society of an industrial age drowning in complexity.

Then there's the Secret Service implosion... This 'death by a thousand cuts' is getting interesting.

Chris G said...

JMG - This essay reminded me of what Theodore Roszak called "rhapsodic intellect." Very fiercely.

the four horsemen have a tendency to come together, all at once. The strain created by global pandemic on the global economic system could well threaten to make room for the appearance of the others. To withstand all the other winds tearing at the high tower of the elites - domestic race conflict, distrust from the internal proletariat, and resource limits - requires huge investments of energy. As the pandemic spreads, it will require large allocations of energy resources, as well as pulling labor away from industries. The damage done by disease on economic systems is not only the sick people, but the people needed to treat the sick people. Following the plague comes the famine. Famine drives people in need to rise up against the political status quo (high food prices - near famine - were the origin of the so-rebranded "Arab Spring.") Into these destabilizations gets mixed the problems of racial and religious conflict. Destabilizations in the Middle East lead to recessions of energy flow from that critical region.

All of a sudden, a year from now or 4 years from now, famine and plague ravaged Middle Eastern populations consolidate under new military theocratic leadership and invade Europe. (O before that, probably, south and east asian populations that produce much of the goods for sale in American markets have been ravaged as well by plague and famine, and the US stock market has plummeted.)

Ecological domino theory.

Regarding lessons, it's clear the only way humanity will learn is the hard way.

Having said that, this plague may not kick off the big winds. In any case, the hard limits remain and another confluence will come along. More accurately, all four horsemen are likely to come together.

onething said...

While reading the final comments and awaiting this new post, I googled the situation with the arrival of ebola to America and I find that - I just don't know how to begin to express my shock and anger. I have been worried about ebola for some time and expected it to arrive eventually, but apprently there are no rules regarding travel. If I understand the two articles correctly, an ordinary citizen of Liberia, one of the hardest hit countries, can freely fly to the US simply because he wants to visit his relatives. Never mind the stunning decision made at the hospital in Dallas, never mind that they may very well contain this particular outbreak - it makes no difference because there may be an untold number of people freely flying into any US city from Liberia, coming to my local airport, at whose nearest hospital I work.

Who has failed to make even the most obvious and rudimentary decisions so that we are not the equivalent of the neighboring village to Liberia?

Goldmund said...

I read "Where the Buffalo Roam" by Anne Matthews when it first came out(published in 1992), about the pioneering work of the Poppers, two academics who proposed restoring wild buffalo to the Great Plains decades ago. They noticed that many counties, from Texas to Montana, had reverted to frontier status (2 people or less per square mile) and the (white) humans who remained were mostly elderly(Native American populations, on the other hand, have been steadily growing.) Apparently the Poppers heard "the buffalo wind" and simply stated the obvious: it's going to happen anyway, so why not help it along? Most people know the awful story of how the buffalo were driven to near extinction, the last remaining wild herd finding sanctuary in Yellowstone National Park. But I wonder how many people know the stories of those humans (many of them Native Americans) who cared enough to bring them back. These stories are remarkable, and helped restore my faith in (at least some of) humanity.

Elizabeth Kennett said...

Dear Mr. Greer,
Thank you for the usual weekly link to sanity. Did you notice in yesterday's newspapers the report of the first Ebola case here in America? And they kept insisting that it would be contained.
If I may be permitted to go slightly off-topic with a recommendation for what to do with radioactive waste?
I recommend we throw it away. Specifically, we should get it together and shoot it off to the moon, the only place I can think of which actually can be described as "away". There would be more space for payload since there would be no need for any kind of life support, telemetry, or accommodation for a return trip. I also suggest crash-landing in the Sea of Crises, as a mnemonic.
In the meantime, I further recommend it be gathered together and stored in the Pentagon. The advantages are as follows: a nice 5-sided space; security is superb; and a whole bunch of *really* *smart* people will be working very hard to find the money to make the moonshot (mooncrash?) happen ASAP. (You heard about those thousand-dollar hammers? They'll find the money.)
The future keeps looking interesting. In the meantime, please keep writing. As I said, you're a link to sanity.
Thank you.
Elizabeth Kennett

Redneck Girl said...

I am laughing, full of joy at the thought. Perhaps the many white buffalo born a few decades ago were the sign to the Tribes and the Lovers of the Wild. I won't live long enough in this life to see it but I will in the next! The wondrous sight of a tide of brown/black backs rolling over the hills with the rumbling of thousands and thousands of hooves and the haze of dust that follows them. The bellows of bulls and the calls of cows to wayward calves. I've no doubt that in a relatively short time buffalo wolves will re-emerge to prey on the herds.

And then there would be the wild horses. Less far ranging then the buffalo, more territorial. Will new eyes see the massive piles of dung wild stallions build as boundary markers of their ranges?

Will some sloppy wild game park owners allow their apex predators loose along with small populations of African herds?

Honey Locust trees with their long thorns developed those thorns to protect them from mammoths and mastodons. Those trees still live on east coast modern America. Some planted in New York City.

S. M. Sterling wrote about an alternate world where the discoverer of a 'door' brought diversity back to the American continent to fill all the ecological niches left empty by the disaster at the end of the last ice age. The book is titled 'Conquistador' I can't help but wonder if that is the sort of future the American continent faces. (Without our current mechanical accoutrements.)

On a separate note I was listening to an old Enya song called The Poison Glen and thought of the nuclear power plants. The song made me think about our nature reverence with the line that went something like: 'let this spell be a silver lining, pleasing nature with my heart's desire.'

I know my heart's desire and I think I'll be filled with the richness and majesty of Nature in all her glory!

Blessed BE!


Kutamun said...

In Australia we have steadfastly refused to create an industry out of Kangaroo meat, despite the stuff being everywhere , for much the same reasons i think . Likewise the outback is stuffed with camels , those majestic creatures that were the shipping lines of the early days , painful reminders of those days of limits , where dying of thirst was a distinct possibility . Human nature i guess !
There is 28 million head of cattle in Australia , 50-60 million kangaroos and 1.2 million feral camels , 400000 wild horses for good measure ( equus ferrus caballus) , though these tend to arouse great emotion and controversy whenever the subject of culling them comes up , leftovers as they are from the era of the heavily romanticised white anglo saxon stockman , descended from the hardy waler battle horses of the famous Light Horse mounted infantry divisions which captured Beersheba , Gaza and Damascus in world war 1 .

Yes the wholeness of the system is what we fail to appreciate , this and the fact there are myriad such systems contained within the world .
Seems we have interrupted more than one flow of energy , which should trickle majestically through each and every waving field of wheat , past every murmuring brook and stream , running as they do through quiet woods . By the constant ebb and eddies of the lunar cycles , perhaps we can come to liberate and recognise some uber intuitive feminine principle , Limited as we currently are by the towering edifice of our Hubris .
Like amateur magicians we have unwisely dabbled in these cause and effects , setting in train such unforeseen consequence like a bunch of money hungry Chez-Doodle sorcerers apprentices . Perhaps we shall learn to divine these various planes of expression when we are once again compelled to follow The Sun . With some good Judgement perhaps we can remain part of the wild diversity of Evolution (Evilution) that is always going on in this Argo like place !

Still, no reason to seal ourselves into the cave with the Reverend Henry Kane just yet .....

Repent said...

I'm not great at math, but something tells me that we're facing imminent and near total social, economic, and political collapse before this time next year if the Ebola situation is not taken seriously.

This year I drove from where I live on the Canadian prairies down though the Great lakes watershed to visit family and vacation in Toronto. On the way I noticed a grim sight, motels, many burned or abandoned littered the roadside of this formerly prosperous highway. A cultural change had taken place where people fly for trips, rather than take long car journeys with their families. These closed down, burned out motels were a symptom of the change. Still the highway coursed though otherwise nearly pristine wilderness. Yes it's all be logged before. Yes the human footprint is evident, but what really took me was that these seemingly vast spaces of nature still remain in the world. That as most people jet from metropolis to metropolis, the rural back country is still there. Drastically scaled down lifestyles would still be possible and even desirable in a return to simple living. There are still places to go after the lunacy all comes tumbling down.

I am worried however that the elites, the powers that be, whatever, will make desperate last ditch efforts to hold onto power at all costs. There's a saying, when all else fails they take you to war; and that is what I believe they are trying to start now. I personally won't riot, but there will be blow back from martial law and so forth that no one can escape.

As you mentioned last week, I was actually hoping that the stair step decline you have written about would be a 'kinder, gentler apocalypse', than the fast crash crowd is offering. Clearly this is also wishful thinking. Is there any good news for the short term for the next 20 years or so?

f50a31ca-49e8-11e4-84ff-3f3247c7b4a0 said...

It's useful to remember some rules of thumb, rather than doing the exponential math. To increase something a thousand-fold (3 orders of magnitude) takes ten doublings. That's why Moore's so-called Law is so powerful. If transistor density doubles every 18 months (and thus, approximately, computer power) it takes 15 years for a thousand-fold increase, 30 years for a million-fold, 45 years for a billion-fold. So we can now buy what would have been considered a super computer a few decades ago and put it in our pockets.

Applying this to your thought experiment, 10 doublings at 20 days each is 200 days. That takes us to a billion cases. Two more doublings is 4 billion cases at 240 days or 2 years. Another doubling takes us beyond the current human population, so the answer is sometime in January of 2017 before the 20th.

Matthew Casey Smallwood said...

The voice that says "we can stop it its tracks, because we're different this time" is, I sense, the same voice that said "Rome will last forever" or "the Federals will fall in the center, on that long low ridge" at Gettysburg. It's the voice of human mortality mixed with hubris, and it speaks at various times and places through various means that it is allowed to, but it's the same intonation and inflection, spiritually, and will have the same outcome. It wouldn't take but a hundred deaths on US soil to cause a massive social upheaval, at the very least in group consciousness.

Cherokee Organics said...


Historical accounts from early white settlement here also tell of a very different, open, moist, more fertile and diverse country than what I see now.

The other week, was something of a record here for the sheer volume of wildlife at one point in time: It's feral out there. The photos tell more of a story than I can. Every year, it just gets that bit more productive and fertile here.

One of the things I'm slowly learning is when to intervene and when to simply let go and let nature run its course. It is not always easy to find that balance though and at the back of my mind I'm always left wondering if I have enough time and resources to implement all of the things that I want to achieve. Dunno.

Incidentally, during the recent Alban Eiler during meditation I had a vision of tall old trees and long grass here. The trees are already about 50m (about 150ft), but they are only about a quarter to a third of the way through their life spans which can reach about 300 to 400 years with a final height of about 90m (about 270ft). Dunno, I'll take that as a good sign.



John Michael Greer said...

Josh, it's not that hard. Get a calculator and a sheet of paper, and figure out how many times you have to punch in "x 2 =" to get from 1 to a number higher than 7300. Multiply that number by 20 (the number of days per doubling cycle), and then check the calendar. I strongly encourage you to do it yourself so that it sticks in your mind!

Sven, the US doesn't even begin to have the facilities to deal with a major pandemic. If we're lucky, it might be possible to squash local outbreaks using military teams in chemical-warfare gear; if not -- well, you can imagine that as well as I can. As for the Black Death, there are dozens of good histories; I'm partial to Philip Ziegler's The Black Death, but that's mostly because I read it in my misspent youth.

Tom, both of those are classic. Notice how the farmers are stuck in the classic myth-of-progress mental trap: any alternative to the present way of doing things, unless it's even more of the present way of doing things, equals going straight back to the caves. It's high time that this logic become the target of ruthless mockery.

Mark, fascinating. Thank you!

Grebulocities, evolution isn't goal-oriented, and the RNA viruses aren't sitting there slavering over all that primate meat, so, no, I think this is about normal. It more or less matches the pace of pandemics in earlier centuries, for example. Oh, and of course you got the right answer; thank you for doing the math!

Ventriloquist, well, that's something. The photo of the Arctic, with blue water sailing from Iceland straight through the Northeast Passage to the Bering Strait, was very unnerving...

Yupped, excellent. I've also gotten the sense that people are running short on faith-based optimism, and starting to take hard looks at the world around them. I wonder if anybody in DC or Wall Street has even begun to think about the tectonic implications if Americans by and large give up on American delusionalism.

Thepublicpast, that may well have done it. I grew up spending a lot of time on the coast of Washington State, where the pilings of abandoned canneries are all over the place; it's not hard there to get a sense that bust follows boom, and our civilization can end up as nothing but nameless ruins.

Steve, I'd heard about that! Yes, I suspect we're going to hear a lot of babble about America's great leap forward to 19th-century conditions in the not too distant future.

Kylie, good -- you're paying attention. The only thing that reliably makes money in large parts of the industrial world today is money -- and that means the token economy of money is fatally detached from the real economy of goods and services. As that gap widens, quite a bit can fall into it.

Fleecenik, bingo. If this thing is already in Sudan, and spreading through the Sahel more generally, it's going to take superhuman efforts to keep the hajj from becoming a massive pandemic incubator -- and I doubt those efforts will be made while there's still time.

Pinku-sensei, I was impressed; there are times when the world just seems to want to cooperate with me, or something. ;-)

Ray Wharton said...

I am happy to be visiting my parents this week, checking the core ties in ones life is a good thing to do before a storm. Today, while I followed my Mom through a big box store we stopped in the DVD section. This being South Western Colorado the taste in Westerns at the store have a unique flavor. "I Will Fight No More Forever" and "Broken Arrow" were both innovative in sympathetic portrayals of Natives; a quick glance at the facial features of those around me gave a pretty clear clue why this is the case. Interestingly the garb around me was pearl snap shirts and stetson hats just like I was wearing.

I nearly bought the movies, but then remembered that I don't have a DVD player and refrained. Recently my meditations have been focused on how the West will be lost to the Western (in both senses) civilization. On one hand is is completely lacking of the features needed to maintain anything resembling the current way of life, and yet on the other even as desolate as the west is on average, it is dotted with small lands that are inviting to human habitation, given adequate adaptation. That is to say that the West will likely support vibrant cultures, perhaps even a wide diversity of vibrant cultures, but cultures whose way of life share only the most meager commonalities with the current inhabitants. The return of the Buffalo to the planes (north of the areas overly devastated by drought at any rate) would be a wonderful step in that direction.

The seed stock of cultures and traditions who exist in rugged conditions in various impoverished rural areas are too diverse to list, and as the tenderfoots retreat those ways of living with the land which are in their infancy today will take root in the land and begin a process of ethnogenesis. What will come from it is impossible to predict, but I suspect that the Native peoples who were here when my ancestors fled the War of Northern Aggression to settle in Colorado are as good of a clue as one is likely to find; adjusting for shifting climate zones and the availability of vast reserves of salvageable tool sources, and the availability of several new techniques which might change which ecological niches humans are likely to favor in the area.

The stories of how those cultures will emerge as the current culture of beer and bicycles (to use Fort Collins as an example) looses its iron grip on the ordering of things is especially interesting to me. Obviously History will write those stories at a day by day pace, and humans will recall and interpret those stories along the way, but as the current order faces serious disruptions I wonder what those future cultures stories will say about some things.

Those Westerns were a clue, I walked out of the store thinking of the story told by Westerns and how it would go played in reverse, or with various roll reversals. The settlers who came to tame the west driven East, or to oblivion by wild reprisals from Nature and new Cultures alike. Stories of driving away those 'pilgrims' at long last. Native stories mixing and mutating in together with the stories of the Westerners who decide to embrace the lessons that 'the natural world is patiently and pitilessly teaching us' and the stories emerging from the psychic maelstrom of urban decay both in the ravaged hearts of imploding western cities and the hearts of story tellers arriving from other such forges. War stories as one people turn the tables on a force become alien to then. Heroic stories of balances being found with the Natural world, and limits ordained from the Divine figures of these cultures. Ghost stories haunting the taboos, and other spirits bringing to a people those boons by which one culture survives its childhood while the neighboring community passed into oblivion before they ever became themselves.

Sad thing the news these days, good time to remember "Will shall be the sterner, heart the bolder, spirit the greater as our strength lessens."

DeAnander said...

I just read _Sway_, a superficial and glib but interesting little book about irrational influences on human thought and behaviour. The authors set up a taxonomy of well-known "sways" which can and do lead people to do remarkably stupid things. All through the book, Peak Oil and Climate Chaos were jumping out at me. It was all there...

... the psychology of sunk investment, of loss aversion, of diagnosis attachment and bias confirmation, all adding up to an inability to come to grips with facts on the ground and a desperate need to cling to some imagined future. Worth a read as we ponder apparently lunatic responses to our current predicament :-)

Just a week earlier I had been reading old J Varley short stories and marvelling at the future I used to (sort of) believe in.

My personal bet on Ebola: there will be some "realpolitik" thinkers in the affluent countries who, off the record, won't be too upset if there's a major cull of poor brown people on the other side of the world. I don't expect any substantive or really helpful intervention from the great powers for that reason.

Should it get a foothold *inside* the industrial cores however, I expect orchestrated panic -- remember all the drama and [ahem] flap over Avian Flu? People wearing filter masks while grocery shopping and so on? I expect embargoes on travel from designated high-risk countries, and forcible deportation of travellers suspected of infection. Possibly cordons sanitaires around any barrios or ghettos where infection is present. And extremely lucrative govt contracts for favoured pharma giants to produce the eventual vaccine for favoured populations.

In the worst case -- major Ebola outbreak in urban centres of power and politics, like DC, NY, etc -- I expect the great and powerful to do what they did during plague summers in old England: flee to the countryside and their walled estates :-) So I expect Ebola, like AIDS, to take out swathes of the world's poor and brown, and leave whitefolk and the ruling class almost untouched. Another ongoing tragedy, like famine, civil wars, AIDS, farmer suicides, species extinctions, sweatshop fires, to occupy a few seconds of attention span before the next rigged election, Olympic circus, politico scandal, hockey game.

I'm feeling grumpy and cynical tonight.

Donald Hargraves said...


I remember how my housemate had gotten pneumonia, and suffered through it for a month despite thinking that she'd eventually get over it. She HAD gone to the doctor, but he figured it was a normal cold and told her to keep going. It took a visit to an urgent-care doctor who knew what to look for. (I knew, of course, from personal experience – something that I'm still paying for, in some ways).

So I can understand the hospital letting the Nigerian leave with a prescription of antibiotics only to have him return with things MUCH worse. They didn't know what to look for, and I wouldn't be surprised to find out that our medical establishment won't be able to learn what they're dealing with until it's too late.

John Michael Greer said...

Renaissance, I remember the album cover, but for the life of me can't remember the group or the album? Can anyone with a more encyclopedic knowledge of 70s rock help us out?

Bike Trog, coming soon to a city near you.

Ghung, bingo. Those cuts are starting to come pretty quickly these days.

Chris, thank you -- that's high praise. As for your scenario, that's certainly one possibility; there are others, but none of them leave business as usual intact.

Onething, exactly. That's why I've been challenging people who brush the epidemic aside as an irrelevant; their bland conviction that nothing bad can ever really happen to us is the single most potent force boosting the potential for a really ghastly global pandemic.

Goldmund, I haven't read that -- thanks for the recommendation!

Elizabeth, I'd encourage you to stop for a moment and think about what would happen if one of those rockets loaded with high-level nuclear waste fails to launch properly and blows up in the upper atmosphere, spreading lethal fallout over a chunk of the planet's surface. The first thing you should always ask when it comes to a supposed technological solution is "what could go wrong?"

Wadulisi, understood and agreed.

Kutamun, the camels should certainly be left alone. Once the fuel supply will no longer support trains, you'll need 'em for travel in the Outback.

Repent, there's still plenty of good news, and I'll be discussing it as we proceed. The existence of fairly large areas that have basically been forgotten by the centers of power is one of those pieces of good news, though.

f50, I'd encourage you to actually do the math and not rely on round-number rules of thumb. The rule you've used gives an answer fifteen months off.

Matthew, yes, it's the same voice, and it's facing the same long silence.

Chris G said...

There's something about the analogy of a tower to our civilization that works really well. Unlike a true pyramid, the tall tower narrow at the base can can topple quickly with a single blow. Now the base of the tower here is the food system, as anywhere. Food system here, being industrial relies on fossil fuels. The tricky thing here is that all of our fossil fuels are already committed. A weakening of the flow of fossil fuels in the overall international market could affect our food prices here. As we saw with Arab Spring food riots are the beginning of generalized political turmoil.

Ebola could be confined entirely to Africa and Asia and still have profound effects here in America, Europe and Oceania.

Not only is our political system like a tower, tall and narrow, the sustenance of its foundation is halfway around the world.

But those aren't the only factors. Add in the increasing effects of extreme weather. (A Native American saying is that when the wind blows harshly you know that Earth is angry.) Adding the increasingly distrustful and bifurcated American public.

It may not be the case of a runaway effect with this outbreak of Ebola. But you can also add Ebola to the mix of future strains on an already precarious and teetering structure.

The tower was bound to come down anyway sometime, but it might not take much to set forces in motion that will tip it over.

f50a31ca-49e8-11e4-84ff-3f3247c7b4a0 said...

How stupid of me. Of course 240 days isn't two years but 8 months. So the answer is mid-September 2015. Another reminder that most of the action in an exponential function occur at the end.

Svea M said...

OK, newbie question. Why is farming the Great Plains not viable in the long term?

Pongo said...

I very much agree with you that the whole edifice is ready to collapse, and will probably do so with a very small push at this point. I think the most maddening part about it for me is that I can see how utterly unready almost everyone around me is from a mental and psychological standpoint. A little while back I had a conversation with one of my best friends on this topic. He's about my age (early 30's) but he has done pretty much all of the things I would tell someone not to do if they are concerned about facing the challenges ahead. He's extremely overweight and has not taken care of his health (and is now starting to deal with a lot of the medical problems that come with that), he's $60,000+ in debt to private creditors and also has the IRS coming after him for back taxes. His employment situation is up and down and up and down, and most of his jobs have been ultra ephemeral things like being a paid pop culture blogger. And he knows what's coming because I've distilled this blog's message for him on many occasions, and when we talked about it last we were discussing the attractiveness of apocalyptic fantasies nowadays and he was surprisingly more honest than anyone else I've talked to. He said: "It would be so nice for Ebola or nuclear war to just end it, because it would really save me the trouble of figuring out what I'm going to do with the rest of my life and how I'm going to possibly do with the the mess I've made of everything."

On that note, over the past few months I've actually been taking a lot of personal development courses. These ones that I've been doing aren't the tacky, lazy retreads of generations old quick fix fads like "The Secret", but rather courses aimed at building up your communication skills (both internal and external) and strengthening yourself emotionally. They very much deal with the fact that people in this world usually actually know what it is that they need to do to be successful, to deal with problems in their lives, to overcome challenges, but they can't actually bring themselves to do it or stick with it once they've decided to do it. That's a skill that's helpful for a lot of things, and I consider this training to be every bit as much a part of my preparation for peak oil and the end of industrial civilization as the practical skills that you document in books like GREEN WIZARDRY. After all, that book on organic gardening or solar heating is pretty much useless to you unless you can find the discipline to read it and then put it into practice, and I suspect that I'm not the only reader of this blog who has struggled with the fact that I know exactly the things I need to learn and practice but have had a great deal of difficulty committing to learning and practicing them.

John Michael Greer said...

Cherokee, I'm left wondering what the missing keystone species was -- the common Australian bunyip, possibly? ;-)

Ray, good. Times of the sort we're entering are times of stories, and anti-Westerns (Easterns?) will doubtless be among them.

DeAnander, that's certainly one set of possible scenarios. It's all too likely that nothing will be done until it's clear that the pandemic won't stay confined to Africa, and once that happens there may not be much that anyone can do: given the presence of huge immigrant populations from the Third World all through the industrial nations, and the substantial enclaves of urban and rural poverty in the industrial world, once it's jumped to the Arab world, south Asia, and the Caribbean, we're in for it. Whether the rich can keep themselves safe, or weather the cascade of social and economic impacts, is a complex issue -- more on that as we proceed.

Chris, that's a good working metaphor.

f50, okay, this time you're square on target.

Svea, there are two obvious reasons: the practices necessary to grow grain on the Great Plains waste topsoil at a frightening rate, and much of the plains acreage is being irrigated using water from Ice Age aquifers that are rapidly being depleted. Still, there's more going on than that. Farming the plains has only been economically viable when the price of grain is artificially boosted, as in wartime, or when government subsidies absorb some of the costs. That lack of economic viability is just as crucial as, though less easy to pin down than, the ecological issues.

Pongo, excellent! You've put your finger on a crucial issue -- the gap between understanding and will. That's eventually going to be a major issue for my other blog, but I have a lot of preliminary ground to cover first. I may want to do a post on that subject here, with practical issues in mind.

Grebulocities said...

Granted, evolutionarily there's no goal at all, just differential propagation whereby the most successful strategies for propagation survive in the long run.

If the Ebola virus were able to plan along those lines, it would "rather" spread among as many humans while killing as few of them as possible (at least during the initial transmission phase). Ebola used be fairly bad at spreading among humans because it killed people too quickly relative to its transmission rate. But a strain has by happenstance managed to evolve a better (more infectious) strategy.

It seems to me that it's the transition between being too quickly fatal (relative to infection rates) to spread the disease, and the opposite (ubiquit1ous but nearly harmless viruses like rhinoviruses), that is the most dangerous for humans.

Ebola has made a great leap forward in the process of bridging that divide. And now, when you've got billions of viruses per patient, among tens to hundreds of thousands of patients, evolution proceeds much more rapidly.

Marc L Bernstein said...

It is a very high art to combine sober, educated, factual and prosaic remarks with a poetic, visionary and encompassing view. Sometimes your writing is like a symphony of ideas, anecdotes, profound analogies and scholarly research.

I'll leave it at that.

Stuart said...

At the risk of allowing overtly religious content to sneak in... since 2012 or so, it seems serious devotees of the Morrigan have been reporting powerful wind omens and emphatic oracles from Her, to the effect of, "A storm is here [or is coming]." A rising buffalo wind indeed.

Kylie said...

Ironically, the Australian camels are descended from camel trains brought over by Afghan camel drivers to cross our deserts. Before petrol, the main methods of transport were bullock cart, camel and bicycle. Australia has an amazing history of long-distance bicycle travel that has been obscured in favour of the more romantic horse.

Regarding our missing keystone species: humanity was at least one of them. There's some evidence that Aboriginal people managed the land by setting period bushfires, in a practice now known as 'firestick farming'. Of course this conflicts heavily with our ideas of the 'unspoilt wilderness' and the 'noble savage'.

Kylie said...

PS: The gap between understanding and will was summarised neatly by a frustrated former boss, who shouted, "You know, you know, but you don't DO!"

Derv said...


I'm suddenly struck by a real fear that I'm horribly unprepared for this. I think it'd be fair to say that nearly everyone is, including the people who think they are, but that makes it more unnerving, not less so. We've taken steps as a family - growing our own food, buying Green Wizardry, weatherizing our house, learning some useful skills, building community and so on - but boy, I didn't expect it to come so suddenly. Obviously I'm assuming worst-case scenario here, but the damage a full pandemic could do is difficult to contemplate.

I'd have to agree with you that farming across most of the Great Plains has its downsides, but I would take exception for our small corner. I live in the Red River Valley (of the North) where the soil is extremely rich. We are next to a (relatively) unpolluted water source, crime is low, community is fairly strong, extravagance is already frowned upon, we produce more food than we consume, we are hundreds of miles from a large city, and we're not far removed from tougher times. It's one of the main reasons we've stayed where we are. I'm worried first about food, water, shelter. I think we can survive here. That's enough for the time being, at least. Sure, it gets very cold, but pack a few of us families into an insulated house like sardines and light a fire. We'll be fine. Economically we're in a boom, but I don't care about that. I care about the day when things go wrong and nobody will be coming to help us. And on that day, I think we'll survive well enough.

As for lands so even it looks like the ocean, well, I see that every day. You can see the curvature of the earth just outside of town. And what's more fun, I used to drive by the local buffalo (well, bison) ranch every day on my way to work!

I'll tell you what, I'll make you a deal: you keep up with the advice and posts, and I promise to set them free once it hits the fan. They'll find their niche again with or without legislation.

Brian Kaller said...

This is one reason I’d be in favour of cloning extinct Pleistocene species and returning them to their former habitats, even into preserves that are a fraction of their former range.

Jefferson sloths and gompotheres were exterminated by humans in these places too -- but long enough ago that we have no photographs or written accounts of the slaughter - and the human activity that occupies their former territory will not last forever.

Of course, not everything can be restored as it was -- I doubt anything could eliminate placentals from Australia or African grasses from the Amazon -- and restoring them now doesn’t mean they won’t just go extinct again in difficult millennia o come.

If they can be restored, however, they could resume an important former role in the system, and continue to do long after the danger from us is over.

I have never read Seton’s Woodcraft books, but there seems to have been a widespread movement in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to teach children self-reliant and natural skills. The Boy Scouts formed around that time, and growing food became a compulsory school subject in many European countries and in many schools in rural America.

Clarence Hall Robison’s 1911 report on American high schools, for example, recommends “320 hours of agriculture,” including studies of local fungi and insects, fossils and glacial actions, soil types and nutrients. “These are in addition to the required work in botany, zoology, physiology, physics and chemistry,” he wrote, and to their courses in music, French, German, Physics, Drawing, Astronomy, Trigonometry, Surveying and Engineering, and Rhetoric, all in country schools in places like Mississippi and Iowa. School projects he cites, created by students themselves, included experimenting with home-made pesticides and breeding crop varieties specific to their location.

On the less cultivated end of things, the early Boy Scouts were quite hard-core compared to their current incarnation – the original Boy Scout manual has chapters on slaughtering an animal for food, stopping runaway horses and helping a man regurgitate poison. I’m perennially astonished at the breadth of information learned by children in earlier eras, which few adults learn today.

Bogatyr said...

Well. After reading this week's sombre post, I returned to the MSM... and the first thing to catch my eye is an article on how up to 600 General Practices may close across the UK in the coming year. Young medical graduates don't want to go into general practice because of heavy workloads and underfunding; current incumbents are reaching retirement age. Of course, the closures will be in the areas that most need medical services: the poor,the immigrant areas, overcrowded, post-industrial wastelands... Just the places where ebola or its kin are most likely to arrive...

KL Cooke said...

"Oh, give me a home where the Buffalo roam......."

Noteworthy in the Lomax version, the softened reference to the American genocide among all the bucolic imagery. I don't believe I've ever heard that verse sung.

When I was a boy I was encouraged to take piano lessons, starting with simple little tunes. One such I recall was "Thundercloud the Indian Brave." The tune was a simplified version of the Dant-Dant, Dant-Dant-Dant tune that used to come on in the background of old Western movies when Cochise appeared. The words went as follows.

"Thundercloud the Indian brave,
His home and land he fought to save.
But White Man he wanted peace
So wars and fighting then did cease."

(I have a long memory for the damnedest things.)

Jason Heppenstall said...

There's an awful lot of oil being produced in west and north Africa. I'm thinking that if (when) ebola spreads more widely then the production installations - be they rigs in the sea or complexes in the desert - could quickly become disease hot houses. One can easily imagine staff returning from leave to visit sick relatives, bringing back the disease into these closed environments where the workers live cheek by jowl.

If this were to happen I can see a mass exodus of all those western engineers and technical operatives who keep the spigots working.

The knock-on effect of this is something worth thinking about in a global economic context.

Violet Cabra said...

After reading Muddling Toward Frugality I've been meditating on the difference between Comic and Tragic figures.

Tragic figures are noble, individualistic and driven. Usually they are exceptional people. For the most part they live in worlds that affirm only one value system. They fall because of a fatal flaw that is invisible to them and by the time they realize it's already too late.

Looking at Western, or Faustian, Culture through this lens it becomes clear that we are a people heavily defined by the tragic. Jesus Christ could be considered the ultimate tragic figure, his "fatal flaw" being his divinity. The persistent "lone genius" stock character is another; be it an artist, inventor or scientist.

In America we are arguably settled on a tragic ideal of the Pioneer going forth into Manifest Destiny to live lawlessly in isolation.

And if I'm reading your post right we may be on the brink of the unraveling of the plot, the Denouement or Catastrophe. That we are like Pentheus from The Bacchea, right around the time Dionysius causes his madness that will lead to him to be torn limb from limb. Which of course was horrible, messy and demoralizing, and caused political waves, but still wasn't exactly the end of Thebes.

There is also the Comic figures who is usually ridiculous, ugly in some way that causes no harm. They are usually morally inferior, caring more about survival than dignity, often are focused on their bodies rather than spirits, live in worlds of conflicting values, and most crucially they move from rigidity towards greater freedom and from individuality towards group cohesion.

A great example of a comic figure is Odysseus who using his wits, sacrificing his dignity, and overcoming his “flabby legs” is able to, against all odds!...return home to his family

What makes the difference between a Tragedy and a Comedy so fascinating to me is that it emphatically isn't a different between content per se – Pentheus ends his life a duped drag queen and Odysseus was by all accounts a mass-murderer. Instead the difference is one of approach.

One of my personal disciplines is to disengage myself from a Tragic inner narrative and move towards a sense of my own Comedy. To become a Comic figure rather than a Tragic one. My hope is that if enough people stop playing along with the generally Tragic script of our culture we may be able to approach the coming trials with if not more grace at least more good humor. We might come together instead of coming apart.

Odin's Raven said...

As population thins, surely it should take longer for the disease to spread, so the terminal date should be later than expected. Probably there's a sort of 80/20 effect. People are likely to still be around in a couple of year's time, even if not so many are reading your blog!

Shining Hector said...

Yeah, I've pretty much accepted worse case scenario with Ebola by now.

The constant authoritative reassurances from public figures who really should have known better just annoy me to know end.

"It will never spread from Africa." Unless you're a time-traveler, you have no way of knowing that.

"It's only one patient and won't go beyond that, we have it contained." You haven't even tracked down his contacts yet, what basis do you possibly have to make that? Oh wait, disproven less than a day later.

Little reporting on the significance of all the health care workers that got sick there if it's oh-so-difficult to transmit that bastions of personal hygiene like the U.S. will be immune. We poach enough health care professionals from Africa to fill our ranks here for me to know they get the same basic training there and know basic infection control. They've not all been sipping from a cup containing the patient's blood to appease the disease spirits, and no matter how tired you get needle sticks aren't going to be that routine.

Honestly all the bald-faced lying, sanguine statements of best-case scenarios as settled facts, and glossing over of troubling details reminds me of a toddler constantly being caught with his hand in the cookie jar, whose response is always "I didn't do it" even when actually caught in the act. It's like it's actually incomprehensible to them that anyone ever won't just take their word for it, now and forever. At least the toddler has the excuse of an as yet undeveloped theory of mind to explain the cognitive deficit, what's their excuse? It's not that they don't know they're lying, that they think short-term reassurance before it really matters trumps all other concerns, that they're so staggeringly incompetent that they can't string 2-3 ideas together to make a coherent thought. All that's really left is that for some reason no one will ever question what they say or think for themselves, which honestly in some ways is the most bizarre concept of all.

The saddest part is when the most effective strategy is to actually start telling the unvarnished truth, no one will believe them and we'll be in even more trouble.

Justin Patrick Moore said...

Whenever I see a used book by Seton, I snatch it up to add to my personal Gaianomicon collection.

...speaking of which I found letters A-K of the Popular Mechanics DIY encyclopedia from the early '50s at a yard sale last weekend. A lot of worthwhile projects in there for aspiring Green Wizards.

Harriett Diller said...


Album cover from 70's-- Kansas: Monolith?


ando said...


Splendid. I was just thinking a few days ago that people who are talking about Decline in the future are not paying attention to what is happening under their noses. Reading this, I was reminded of the chap in Monty Python's Holy Grail, pushing the cart in the midst of the Black Death, keening, "Bring out your dead." Is that the Buffalo Wind raising the hairs on the back of my neck?



Iaato said...

Thanks for the bump, Mr. Greer. I forgot about the Sudan cluster--I wondered at the time whether something was brewing there. Another suspected case in Honolulu--someone reported that there have been 500 rule-outs so far in the US. And patient Zero's nephew in Dallas had to call the CDC, for pete's sake. Our hospital system, which now serves as primary care for the uninsured and under-insured, which is 1/6 of the US population, has huge cracks through which to fall. Embers will become flames eventually, especially in disturbed settings.

The "what happens after 1.4M" is the next piece of denial that needs to be overcome. My mind doesn't even want to go there. And doing the math on contact tracing. It's coming, and our actions can only slow the process. I doubt we will take too many effective quarantine actions until too late--there's a good historical basis for that, but it will be interesting to see what unfolds. --Mary

mr_geronimo said...

The Bleeding Death, should it happens, will be the event that historians from the 1st ecotechnic age will use as epoch frontier between High Industrial and Late Industrial. Nothing will be the same after it.

About the buffalo wind: The Horde forming in Mesopotamia, what can become the new Yellow Turbans in China, the worst drought spells ever, not only in Cali and the Great Basin, but in the Brazillian Highlands, from where half the rivers in S.America come from, Russia and Nato marching towards war... Yep, late industrial is coming and coming fast.

Kyoto Motors said...

Yes, the buffalo story was in the national news here; a sign of a slow healing beginning at last. Meanwhile, in another corner of the continent, caribou herds are suffering massive die-off due to habitat disruptions. Sadly.
This week's thought experiment led met to a chilling realization: let's say that the things really do go global and half the human population dies within the year? Obviously, by the time the last of the rubble stops bouncing, business as usual will have been put on hold in so many departments. The global economy would certainly morph into some completely different animal.
Another thought comes to mind: the surviving population will be made up of two types, with respect to the virus: the untouched and those who managed to recover -- the latter being immune. These survivors will have a special role/ place in the emergent society. Already, healed Ebola survivors are being trained as front line responders in the present fight...
Lastly, thanks for the introduction to Seton. He seems to have a special connection to Canadian painting. Nice work he did in Paris...

Don Plummer said...

Since I'm not a rancher in Montana or descended from any of the original settlers of the Great Plains, I'm sure I don't fully understand their concerns about reintroducing Bison bison to the Great Plains. However, it seems to me that since Europeans have taken so, so much from the indigenous peoples of this continent, we ought to be able to rationally consider giving something back. Letting buffalo roam their pathetically diminutive reservation lands doesn't seem like giving too much. Nor would honoring a few of the treaties we've abrogated.

Writer Kathleen Norris wrote about the depopulation of the western Dakotas in her 1993 book Dakota, though she didn't exactly use this terminology. This process has no doubt accelerated in the past 21 years.

donalfagan said...

There are some dissenting views about the reintroduction of wolves; some say the elk are not that shy of wolves; others say you also need more beavers. I think the general point that restoring a balance between species has a strong effect on the land is sound, though.

Two coworkers, one from Africa, were arguing about Ebola this AM. The local guy insists that if Ebola was a real threat it would be on the front page of CNN. Other than that, he's actually a fairly bright guy.

Neo Tuxedo said...

I did the math in my head, because it was just what progress-ist author Neal Stephenson, in his Snow Crash, called "the magical powers of two", and didn't work it out as precisely as Grebulocities did, but I got a ballpark figure. (For the uninitiated: thirteen exponential doublings, or 260 days, get you to 8192, greater than the 7000 or so million humans on this planet.)

Also too (as a prominent Alaskan politician would say): One of the crucial lessons of the Buffalo Wind, though, is that it’s not always gentle. It can also rise to a shrieking gale, tear the roofs off houses, and leave carnage in its wake. We can embrace the lessons that the natural world is patiently and pitilessly teaching us, in other words, or we can close our eyes and stop our ears until sheer pain forces the lessons through our barriers, but one way or another, we’re going to learn those lessons.

...reminded me of a passage from Taoist author Benjamin Hoff's The Te of Piglet (his 1992 sequel to 1982's The Tao of Pooh), p.228 of the Dutton hardcover:

And so when we hear Big Talk about growing environmental awareness and about man's ability to solve any problem, we can't help but wonder Who's Kidding Whom.

Then we go to the natural world, watch, and listen. And it tells us that a Great Storm is rising, and that before long things will become very Interesting--very Interesting indeed.

It didn't rise as quickly as he expected, but it's certainly rising now. I believe we had a chance to learn these lessons the easy way, but we probably weren't going to, and now it's probably too late.

Permian Ghostrider said...

JMG, Renaissance Man,
The album is Monolith by Kansas. It was released in 1979.
Inside the cover is a verse taken from the Ghost Dance popular among the Plains tribes in the late 19th century. I can't remember it verbatim, but I think it goes something like this:

"One day, the earth will be covered with dust. Indian nations long dead will come back to life. The white man will disappear and the buffalo will return."

Naturally, the pioneers were opposed to it.


Tom Lewis said...

Beautifully written and rigorously thought through. Thank you.

I sense some connections between the core principles of Druidry to which you refer, and those of Permaculture, of which I have recently become a disciple.

I very much appreciate your recent references to my website, The Daily Impact, and learned because of them that we are near neighbors, I am based in Romney WV. Here's to sanctuary.

Tracy Glomski said...

Renaissance, JMG, and all:

The album Monolith (1979) by the progressive rock band Kansas included art depicting a camp of Amerindians at a highway overpass. The pictograph on the back cover is of an automobile.

RPC said...

"...there are times when the world just seems to want to cooperate with me, or something." It could have something to do with the fact that you largely want to cooperate with the world...

onething said...

Just to keep you people updated, my rage and aghastness has just reached new levels. I have been on the phone to my senators and state reps offices, the main state newspaper and the CDC and the associated press.

I have left contact information, but have not been able to get even a glimpse of an answer as to how it actually works in this nation for us to have implemented some basic controls such as monitoring travel from a country like Liberia. No one knows, nor can they put me in contact with someone who knows.


ando said...


PS, if you had not seen this one, I thought you might be interested. It is by Mary Odum, daughter of H.T. Odum.



the Heretick said...

The reason ranchers oppose the introduction of the Bison is contained in one word, Brucellosis.

Nevertheless, you are spot on, Western society, especially, can no longer be described as strictly human, we have a mechanical exoskeleton upon which we are dependent. Of course this machine is dependent upon a huge energy input, which fact occupies a huge part of our leaders mental energy.

The scary thing is that the mechanical revolution is not limited to the exterior of our bodies, our inner biological workings are up for grabs with gene-splicing and the latest vaccine du-jour.

Once a vaccine is developed, if one little sequence were to be off, mass inoculation could put the one wild card into play to ignite a pandemic worse than the original disease.

I am not a scientist, I know there are safeguards, but then there were safeguards at Fukushima also, and at the Deepwater Horizon.

Apples and Oranges? Who knows? Could be beets, could be carrots, just cause it's free don't mean it's no good.

william fairchild said...


The treaty you mention reminds me very much of the Great Buffalo Commons that was proposed in the 80s.

As a CO boy who lived in WY for many years, and comes from farming and ranching stock (on my mothers side), I can tell you, there are very rational reasons for opposing buffalo re-introduction.

Most Western ranchers consider BLM land as their personal province, even though it is to be managed as a regulated Commons. They pay the BLM an annual fee for their grazing lease, and get to graze their herds.

In theory, the wildlife is to be supported, and other citizens get to use the same land (hunting/fishing/collecting firewood? as do other industries (most notably gas and oil). In practice, though, the ranchers will often give the BLM officers, fisherman, or hunters or drilling companies trouble if they think their "rights" are being encroached upon. I once heard a rancher fenced off the Hazleton road, a public right of way (albeit just a dirt track) to prevent interlopers from driving down it. Some anglers got pissed off, cut the barbwire, the ranchers showed up with rifles, and the Sheriff had to get involved.

The guys got to drive down the road.

If they re-introduce free-range buffalo, they compete for fodder, which reduces the value of the range, and increases the rancher costs. So they oppose it.

As well, brucellosis is endemic among buffalo. Even though their is not one documented case of brucellosis transmission from buffalo to cattle, the rancher risks losing brucellosis free status for his herd, thus reducing their market value, and increasing his costs. (the disease causes cattle to abort their calves).

Finally, free-range buffalo invite meddling by environmentalists, conservationists, Game and Fish agents and other and sundry undesirables.

Thus, the BLM land ceases to be a susidized cash-cow (pun intended) for the ranchers. Their rationale is simple short-term economics, but that is the rationale for most of our miscalculations, isn't it?

BoysMom said...

Some 'good' news, for a certain value of good: we have had much more rain than normal--nearly an entire water-year's worth--since August 1 here in our little patch of the Intermountain West. The road department, as best I can tell, is rather dismayed, as the uphill driveways have yet again ended up in the road. The rain has been convenient for our household--saved a lot of watering of young trees. It is very weird to look out the window in August and later and see green--never since my parents moved here in nearly thirty years. Green sure as heck beats further desertification--and the fire radio has been dead silent!
Of course I know there's no guarantee that next year won't be dry as a bone . . . but this year I'll enjoy the possibility that there might be rain in our future instead of the predicted greater dryness as a result of climate change.

the Heretick said...

Kansas - Monolith

Can't stand the band, but it is a cool album cover.

Becky said...

Regarding the album art, I think you are referring to the inner gatefold of Kansas' Monolith album released in 1979, perhaps?

Don Plummer said...

I just heard an NPR report about the efforts public health officials are making to make sure the Dallas Ebola case doesn't spread. Interviewing his contacts since he became sick to learn who their contacts have been, quarantining his family, etc., all seem rather like hit or miss actions. But I wonder what more could be done. They reminded me of the ultimately futile early attempts to control the spread of the emerald ash borer. Sigh.

Are we absolutely, 100% certain that, as reported, one who has been infected with Ebloa virus is not at risk of infecting others until one actually comes down with the fever? Much of the public health effort is based on the belief that the Dallas individual didn't become infectious until he became ill, four days after he returned from Liberia. So health officials aren't, for example, too worried about the possibility that others on board the flights this person took might also become infected.

Regarding the upcoming Hajj, I also heard in the same NPR news segment a mention that the Saudi government is planning to try and keep people living in the Ebola-affected west African nations from attending the pilgrimage. But if it's already in Sudan and nobody is talking about that, will that be enough to keep Mecca from possibly becoming a jumping-off point?

steve said...

In the late 19th century, the US Census defined the "frontier" as a line beyond which the population density was less than 2 people per square mile.

In 1890, the Census announced that there was no more frontier.

In the past few decades, however, population densities on the high plains--the western areas of Kansas, Nebraska, the Dakotas, and the eastern stretches of Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado--have decreased below the 2 persons per sq. mile threshhold.

So, the frontier has re-emerged.

There has been some discussion about returning the area to the wild, the Buffalo Commons.

1ab9a86a-8991-11e3-899b-000bcdcb8a73 said...

JMG, you ask "I wonder if anybody in DC or Wall Street has even begun to think..."

Well, for insight into current Wall St mentality, I recommend this video, assuming you have a strong stomach for withstanding displays of sycophantic journalism. If that assumption is wrong, precautions are advisable.

It's an oddly wide-ranging discussion, I won't spoil it by making any comment...

steve said...

@Svea M

Not enough rainfall in normal years west of the 100th meridian except through irrigation, in large part from the Ogallala aquifer which is drying up.

Carolyn said...

Hmmm...Google tells me the current world population is 7.125 billion. One million Ebola cases on 1/1/2015 means 1,000,000 * 2 ^ x = 7,125,000,000 which means 2 ^ x = 7125, so the answer would be log base 2 of 7125 times 20 days' doubling time, is that right? That's 256 (hmm, a power of 2 itself) days, which counting from January 1st, 2015 puts us at September 14, 2015. Am I right? Or anywhere close?

Keith said...


Great post as always. The bison tell a curious tale of so-called progress. The plains were converted largely to raise cattle and grow cattle feed. What if humans had just eaten the bison, and left the grassland more intact. Would we have had just as much meat with the obscenity of feedlots.

All the best.

Wolfgang Brinck said...

One of the technologies that has doomed nomadic cultures worldwide is the drilling of wells which allows irrigation and farming in areas that were previously unsuitable for farming and therefore wasteland used only by nomads who followed seasonal rain and the grass that grew there in response to the rain. Invariably, open lands previously accessible to nomadic herders became private property of farmers who extracted rents from the nomads or simply locked them out.
Paradoxically, farming which is generally viewed as a renewable enterprise is primarily an extractive practice like mining, making use of finite resources topsoil and in areas such as the Great Plains, fossil water. Farming the Great Plains had an expiration date built into it from the start. Pumping rates on the Ogallala aquifer were set to deplete the aquifer in 100 years, and time is up.
Given that farming on the Great Plains is doomed, the return of the Buffalo is only appropriate. Also, the nomadic hunting culture of the Great Plains Indians was a recent development fostered by the introduction of horses. Prior to the horse, hunting of buffaloes was a difficult task and not the mainstay of native subsistence. People lived primarily in bottom lands adjacent to rivers and raised various crops. The hunting of buffaloes was a part-time occupation, not the mainstay of the culture.
Going forward, we may well see a mix of bottom lands farming and nomadic hunting cultures coming back to the Great Plains.
In general, much of the southwest is unsuitable for farming but can support a mix of small garden plots and orchards near oases and nomadic subsistence gathering where food becomes seasonally available.
The greatest asset that places such as deserts and savannahs have in a post industrial environment is sparse populations making nomadic lifestyles an option for those that do not wish to be tied to a plot of land.

architrains said...

"...we can close our eyes and stop our ears until sheer pain forces the lessons through our barriers..."

When I clicked "Ebola Haemorrhagic Fever" in the "News" column on facebook, the third headline down (after the suspected Honolulu case and the politics of Rick Perry getting a second chance to look competent) was a video clip from Fox Business of John Stossel promo'ing his new show where he says that: despite ISIS and Ebola, everyone suffers from "nostalgia syndrome" and forgets how bad it used to be; the Russian general who executed his soldiers who suffered nostalgia syndrome might have been on to something; statistics show how much crime rates have decreased in the past decade.

I imagine the same comments were made as the Black Death really got rolling in any locality it touched.

In other news, I finally gave in and bought the electronic tag for the turnpike on my daily commute.

onething said...


Read more:
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

"Despite news of the first Ebola case inside the United States, there are no travel restrictions from the White House, it has been reported.

Current policy dictates that anyone showing symptoms of the disease in the Ebola-stricken nations of Sierra Leona, Guinea and Liberia, be barred from travelling.

But patient Thomas Eric Duncan, from Liberia, was able to board a flight out of Monrovia on September 19 because he wasn't looking sick at the time.

It's unlikely he spread the disease while flying to the U.S., since patients are most infectious when they are showing symptoms.

Therefore, the U.S. hasn't yet changed policy towards travel from the Ebola hot-spot nations."

Wow. Here's how it happened: He and several others who have since died carried a pregnant, infected woman to the hospital in Liberia, where she died the next day. Several days later, this irresponsible person boards a plane. He is allowed on because he does not appear sick at THAT moment!!! Yet we already know that the incubation is up to three weeks. It seems that our fearless leaders have considered the problem of infecting passengers on a plane, but not of bringing the infection into the US!!! So DESPITE what has just happened, it is not deemed necessary to restrict travel! I hope you all realize that the conspiracy theorists are going to have a field day with this,and indeed rumors abounded before ebola that the elites want to reduce population. It will be very hard to refute their claims

onething said...


"So I can understand the hospital letting the Nigerian leave with a prescription of antibiotics only to have him return with things MUCH worse. They didn't know what to look for,"

No Donald. No way. We're not talking about some woman in decent health who just didn't imagine she had pneumonia. A sick person from Liberia comes to the ER? You put them in an isolation room and watch them. Regardless of whether you think it will turn out to be nothing serious. No other response makes any sense at all.

LL Pete said...

None of the scenarios bandied about on the potential spread of Ebola have considered this wicked possibility: Suicide bombers, not with bombs strapped to their chests setting out for the local mall, but perversely motivated individuals (ISIS anyone?) who have deliberately exposed themselves to the disease and then set off for population targets in the Western world, where, a few days later, they will become symptomatic and for as long as they can, deliberately spread the contagion as much as possible.

Paul Anderson said...

If Senegal and Nigeria have been able to contain their ebola outbreaks, I'm optimistic that the United States and Europe will be able to handle them as well.

But that's assuming that leakages from West Africa remain infrequent, which is not a good long term bet unless efforts in Liberia and Sierra Leone are significantly increased to get out ahead of the growth in cases.

Link to LA Times story on Senegal and Nigeria:

mathprof said...

If my quick calculation is correct it will take 257 days for 1 million Ebola cases to reach 7.3 billion....assuming 20 days to double. Scary indeed.

Twilight said...

It was, I believe, the inside jacket artwork from a Kansas album Monolith.

Interestingly, in the book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, those giant herds of buffalo and huge flocks of pidgins are described as an historical aberration, and the result of the mass dieoff of the human population that previously kept them in check - from pandemics that were introduced from Europeans.

patriciaormsby said...

@Josh, in case no one else has answered as I write, it's pretty simple. Take your fingers and go "two" (one finger), "four" (two fingers), "eight" (three fingers), "sixteen"... When you get to 256, just round it down to 250, and keep going. At 8,000, I had 13 fingers (had to borrow my husband's). Anything above 7,000 is the goal here, because 7 billion people is 7,000 times one million. So now, you take your thirteen fingers and multiply those by 20 days, that's 260 days. Divide that by 30, and it works out to a little under nine months.
So, Septemberish. That's less than a year from now.
Have a nice day!

Ronald Langereis said...

Archdruid, last time, to me your tone seemed more bellicose than usual, your choice of word harsher. This post confirms my impression. From behind the tissue of rational argument you let your emotion shine through, anger, it seems. Anger at the sheer wasteland humanity has made of the natural world. Am I right? Your audience seems to respond in the same vein. The tone of their comments is different, more emotional, too. Is it because they realise ebola means a more than theoretical threat to their personal existence, or is it the magic of your words? In my view you've rounded a corner.

onething said...

I once picked up a book for a dollar on sale at a book store called Water, by Alice Outwater. She discusses keynote species as they relate to water. The one on beavers was most fascinating, their dams create entire ecosystems of great diversity. They were hunted to near extinction in Europe and now they no longer build dams there. Isn't that interesting?

Buffalo and prairie dogs are keynote species in the west. Buffalo created wallows, which were like mini ponds, holding extra water in the land and of course being utilized by other species. Prairie dogs are used for target practice by the coke and hot dog set. Their tunnels aerate the soil, provide shelter for multitudes of other species, and also help the land hold water. That's just what I remember.

Eric S. said...

Wow. This week’s essay leaves a lot to think about and a lot to process. When you said “brace yourself,” I didn’t think you meant that the crash would start the very same day. It looks like the world is going to be giving us a pop quiz on our collapsing skills. I’ve definitely come a long way since the last recession. Back then I was fresh out of college with no job experience or life skills and nothing but my life savings to live on. Back then my dreams of the future were in activism and hope for systematic change followed by a good wallow in neoprimitivism. Even once I started realistically grappling with the problems of our time there was year of promising I’d change my life as soon as this or that happened before I snapped out of it and actually doing something. I’m definitely in a better place than I was then. I’ve got some skills, some frugality, steady employment, a strong community, and some modest home food production. I still don’t feel ready though. This is going to be a long, hard winter and there’ll be some hard knocks and some sharp drops. I should probably replenish my emergency supplies, especially dried food this weekend just in case. I also intend to do some cemetery shopping and red tape cutting so that I might be able to have a natural burial someday instead of my final legacy being pollution from the industrial death system. If I could have one single wish granted about the future, it would be for me and the global infrastructure to live long enough for me to finish my OBOD coursework, but that may still take another decade. What happens will happen, and if I leave this world with work unfinished so be it. It’s not completing our work on ourselves and on the world that matters, but doing it with all our hearts until the end. When the Buffalo Wind comes to take me away, I pray I can accept it with joy and serenity as the atoms of my body and the energy of my spirit enters back into the eternal dance of life.

Odin's Raven said...

Return of the Black Death is an interesting book whose authors show that it was probably not bubonic plague, but more likely something like Ebola!


Joe Roberts said...

I've often thought that the rural Great Plains and Midwestern obsession with mowing lawns -- and obsession really is the best word for it -- is also rooted subconsciously in a fear of losing the ever-so-precarious "civilization" imposed not so long ago really on these places. Rural Midwesterners (suburbanites too, but their lawns are smaller) with any sort of non-farmed property generally spend hours and hours and hours every week mowing great expanses of land that would be better off as something other than centimeter-high bland-so-bland grass. Ask anyone who's ever lived there. It drives me crazy enough that I don't think I can keep posting about it.

ando said...

JMG, in case no one has already reported back, the Album "Monolith" by Kansas had a cover with a native american under an overpass wearing a space helmet with horns


Alphonse Houner said...

Hard realism followed by a whisper from nature calling us home. A particularly beautiful piece in the final analysis.

Richard Larson said...

Here's a binary thought; humans can only destroy or integrate into the natural order.

Ok, so I will consider that ebola will spread to my town. What steps can I take to minimize catching this? Then, of the 15% that are able to survive, what have these people that the others don't? Maybe a body full of bacteria that kills it on contact?

Nathan said...

The world refuses to obey our dreams yet again. Not only are the wheels falling off, but it is becoming way too hard for us here in the land of the free to even pretend that they are still on the cart. I think most people can feel the collective disgust rising with Kunstler's interlocking schemes of grift and deceit and delusion. Waiting for the storm is terrifying and beautiful at the same time.

Adrian Ayres Fisher said...

Thanks, for this--of course about the Ebola (and I did do the math).

But even more, for me, what you are saying about the Buffalo Wind feels so timely and true. Nature isn't "safe," despite what many imagine. Efforts to dominate nature have included minimizing it, and portraying it as cute, similar to the way Disney sanitized the dark old fairy tales. Another form of attempted magic, I think, trying to re-imagine nature along the lines of an over-manicured suburban neighborhood or theme park on the theory that then it really would be safe. Tried to de-complexify, de-magic, de-sacralize, de-nature it.

Bison bison cannot be reintroduced too rapidly, in my admittedly biased opinion. Tribes are cooperating with biologists to reintroduce many other species, as well. In that is hope for the prairies. I love the joining of traditional and scientific knowledge in these partnerships.

Bison are a historic species in Illinois, as well and are also being being reintroduced here. And there was just a conference here about living with the large predators such as wolves, cougars and (not strictly predatory) black bears that are starting to find their way down from the north.

Indians, biologists, ecology-minded folks of many persuasions and stripes, druids-- that the seventh fire peoples are discovering some commonality in worldview and finding ways to work together is a bright strand in a rough, dark fabric. Perhaps a new hybrid culture is germinating. What effects will cascade, perhaps to contribute to the eco-technic future?

MindfulEcologist said...

Hi JMG and all,
Your Buffalo Wind is resonating with me too. I came across this latest ecological crises statistic a few days back. It has haunted my thoughts since. There are questions about the statistical methods used but I trust the basic magnitude of what has been reported:
“The report suggests populations have halved in 40 years, as new methodology gives more alarming results than in a report two years ago.
The report says populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish have declined by an average of 52%.
Populations of freshwater species have suffered an even worse fall of 76%.”

It is as if we have passed a Gaian tipping point, triggered a whole new level of feedback loops.
Now the Buffalos and Wolves increase and the human population decreases.

“We need to consider the possibility that the peak of global population is no longer an abstraction set comfortably off somewhere in the future. It may be knocking at the future’s door right now, shaking with fever and dripping blood from its gums.”

These could well be some of the most chilling words of yours I have ever read. Cold water on the heart, wake up call. It gives a weight to my upcoming project I will do my best to honor. Thank you.

For those interested I started a cycle on my blog to explore the concepts in Catton’s Overshoot at MindfulEcology dot com.

SweaterMan said...


You stated: " it's going to take superhuman efforts to keep the hajj from becoming a massive pandemic incubator -- and I doubt those efforts will be made while there's still time"

Time's up. Hajj has started, although KSA claims that it'll be Ebola-free since they've denied visas from the hardest-hit countries.

peacegarden said...


Another great post…

“The Buffalo Wind is rising now, keening in the tall grass, whispering in the branches and setting fallen leaves aswirl. I could be mistaken, but I think that not too far in the future it will become a storm that will shake the industrial world right down to its foundations.”

Bring it, and let us make ourselves ready to meet the Buffalo Wind with open minds and hearts. “Teach me what I need to know, how I ought to walk the path ahead, how to surrender my attachment to “safety” and reach for the real world”



Dammerung said...

Perhaps this is a topic more in line with your other blog, but I must confess a feeling of bizarre glee by the notion that our staid axis of Christianity on one hand and logical positivism on the other might soon be replaced with rioting cults of Ebola-chan worshiping technofetishists who've lost all faith in the ability of God to protect or the ability of Science! to Science! away the problem of a virulent, uncontainable epidemic.

Howard Skillington said...

This just in: "Elon Musk argues that we must put a million people on Mars if we are to ensure that humanity has a future." He further explains that this initiative will require 100,000 trips of a giant spaceship, but assures us that "all this could happen within a century."
I apologize for going off-topic but thought, in the context of an Ebola epidemic, a little comic relief might not be unwelcome.

Brian Cady said...


In the book _1491_ vast herds of buffalo were an aberration in the Great Plains 'pre-'history, 'cuz native Amerinds kept them in check to allow better gardening.

As an aside, I want to recommend as well-written and very probable the novel _Through_the_Eyes_of_a_Stranger_ by my friend Will Bonsall, a prominent seedsaver and vegan self-sufficient in central Maine. I think it is much more probable than the technoptomist short story I submitted to your 2nd story contest.

SLClaire said...

When the issue of the bet you and Ben have on Ebola cases by April 1 of next year came up in the comments for the last post, I very quickly ran the numbers in my head, using 1,000 for the current case load of Ebola because I wasn't aware of the actual case load. It was already sobering enough, as even with 1,000 cases you would win the bet (though just barely). Then a few days ago I learned from later comments that the actual case load was about 6,000 cases at the time. Gack. I can only assume Ben either didn't have the actual case number or couldn't/wouldn't do the math to propose a bet at such unfavorable terms to himself. I also came up with September 2015 for this week's challenge, again doing it in my head with rounding-off.

Over the summer I read Barbara Tuchman's book A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century. I'd chosen it for my reading on the end of a civilization because I'd found it for $2 at a used book sale. As you know, the Black Death (bubonic plague) figures prominently in the book. I did not realize at the time just how appropriate that reading would be for what we are facing. The extent to which the plague changed the underpinnings of the social order of the time, and how the social order then changed, combined with my learning of the number of Ebola cases and its doubling time, and the fracking bubble about to burst, and the fact of decline in the oil supply that isn't fracked, and what Ebola in the Middle East would likely do to oil production there, and what I'd learned from your posts on the religion of progress and the psychology of peak oil ... and the result was I spent a sleepless middle of the night in the cold hard reality of serious social breakdown heading our way. I foresee a very difficult next few years. The psychological shakeup will be extreme ... I could see those strange bright banners you've spoken of being unfurled before long. The best I can say is that knowing this, I can do some mental and physical preparation now for what is coming. Thank you for that.

NosVemos said...


Surely it would be obvious, I thought, that changing one part of an ecosystem would change everything else, and that removing or reintroducing one of the key species in the ecosystem would have particularly dramatic effects! Of course I stopped then and laughed, since for most people it’s anything but obvious.

It's strange that here in Utah (Motto: "Industry"), there is a very effective solution to water loss, soil degradation, arroyotization, etc, that doesn't involve an expensive silver bullet...and it's still seen no shortage of obstacles to implementation for exactly the same reasons as you outlined with regard to the reintroduction of Buffalo.

The solution to many of Utah's woes: the humble beaver.

Note: You'll have to forgive me for referring to actual creatures using "solutionist" jargon. But, it tends to be the only way to convince the old ranchers.

Judy said...

Thanks. Thanks for reminding me that nature always grows to fill a void, and that a collapsing civilisation is an opportunity for revival. That is uplifting.

Thanks also for explaining the Buffalo wind. I feel it too, just had no words to explain it.

Herr Doktor said...

Great post as usual!

Buffalo wind = Nature's revenge? (or on other words, return to a stable equilibrium?)

The history about buffalo reintroduction reminds me of the current trend in depressed rural areas here in Spain, where the slow depopulation has relieved pressure on wildlife and now there are many places with a density of wild goats or boars that was unheard of since maybe 50 years ago...

While ebola is very scary, I'm quite old fashioned regarding deadly bugs, and would like to remind people of such demode bugs as cholera, malaria, typhus or yellow fever.
Particularly water borne epidemics such as cholera will become very widespread in Western nations when the drinking water infrastructure begins to crumble- you know, as when the wastewater treatment plants upstream of your city shut off and the maintenance of the local drinking water system that takes water from the same river starts to fail...
Oh! And BTW, all the above mentioned nasties were widespread in many parts of Europe (and probably the US) until right after WWII. And will again be, even with a new push northward thanks to climate change...

It happens that my better half works for the regional health authority in things regarding precisely drinking water, and she is definitely not optimistic on this. And besides, she has pointed out another failure mode of the system: in places where drinking water is sourced from wells (in theory with very low risk of bacterial contamination), there are a lot of new found problems because increased water contamination due to pesticides, nitrates, etc. It seems that while the usual water table level stays more or less constant, the concentration of contaminants stays also roughly unchanged, but when the water tables fall hard, for example during a prolonged drought, the water quality becomes quickly really, really bad. Literally the dregs of the barrel... Has happened in Eastern Spain this Summer and I'm sure that it will be similar in California...

Robert Mathiesen said...

Another blogger whose writing I greatly enjoy, Byron Ballard, has been speaking and posting about a coming "Tower Time" for a while. Her vision is of a great and strong ancient tower, struck by a thunderstorm of wrath from on high, that is crashing in ruins, while people fall from its crown to their doom. (No, she is not talking about those sad bygone twin towers in Manhattan.) She has in view the powerful image on one of the trump (or major) cards in a Tarot deck.

And, Ronald Langereis, anger seems an entirely appropriate emotion in the face of the coming storm. Our modern world is far, far too scared of anger, and of its big sister, furious rage. There are situations when these emotions can be good things, and cold reason must be counted as a great evil.

Andrew said...

Just so you know, the beak-shaped masks full of herbs that have become iconic for "Pestdoctors" never existed, but were invented by a European children's show in the 1960's, and from there took their place in the collective unconcious. The pictures that you can find on the internet that *seem* to depict this are in fact 17th century commedia dell'arte (carnaval), mocking doctors in general.
Yes, I know most websites say otherwise, but "the internet" is wrong about most of what it says about the Middle Ages.

Steve in Colorado said...

It's been a while since I read Tuchman's A Distant Mirror, but two details about the Black Death keep coming to mind:

1. After the plague had abated, with a quarter of the world dead, England and France promptly resumed the war they had been forced to pause.

2. In England and, I think, elsewhere, the governments of the time passed laws forbidding any worker from charging more for his services than he had before the plague, now that there was a labor shortage.

I can imagine the American government, in the wake of a plague killing 50-60 million Americans, passing laws forbidding anyone from selling a house for anything less than it was worth before the plague, or forbidding anyone from occupying any of the millions of homes emptied out by the deaths of their owners. I can also imagine global corporations and trade organizations frantically trying to force workers in the depopulated Third World back into the fields and factories at the same rate of pay...

On a semi-related note, the first two stories on NPR this morning are the ebola case in Texas and the resignation of the head of the Secret Service. Both stories involve officials speaking in the passive voice, saying things like "Clearly, mistakes were made" or "Regretfully, an incident occurred." Just once, I would like to see any prominent official in American public life take responsibility for anything without their back being against the wall. I don't expect that to happen, and that doesn't exactly instill confidence in our ability to weather the crises we face.

Mean Mr Mustard said...

Howard Skillington -

Regarding colonising Mars, I hope we don't make the same mistake as the Golgafrinchans, sadly wiped out by a pandemic after sending all their telephone sanitiser specialists on their way...



Leo Knight said...

My first time commenting. I found your blog a few months ago, and now look forward to your weekly dose of sanity. Thanks for that.

Quite a few people I know complained mightily about bringing the two American aid workers stricken with ebola to the US. I thought that risk quite minimal, considering the extraordinary precautions taken. I thought something else would bring it here, and the Texas case showed how. I felt particularly astonished at the neglect shown by the hospital in sending the patient home. When I read this in your essay, "... it’s unthinkable to most people in the industrial world today that a global pandemic could brush aside the world’s terminally underfunded public health systems and snuff out millions or billions of lives in a few years," I said to myself, "Yes, exactly!"

Nowadays, many people in the US die from treatable diseases simply because they can't afford care. I wonder if that played a part here? Don't want to deal with him, give him a prescription and send him away. As long as these weren't contagious, fatal diseases, most people didn't care. So what if some poor kid dies because an infection from an untreated toothache spread to his brain? Now that kind of neglect may come back to bite us all.

Thanks again for your writing!

wolfvanzandt said...

Well, I scanned the comments. The comments are as interesting as the blog itself so I hate to skim but there are so many, so, if I am repeating someone, please forgive.

And I offer....

Oh give me a home, where the buffalo roam,
And the deer and the antelope play.
Where gardeners are hired,
To clean up the yard,
And they make one heck of a pay.

I think one of the problems with the Ebola sorta-kinda-scare is that we've been told in the past that the flu or that West Nile disease was going to wipe out such huge segments of the population that everybody figures that this one is just another political manipulation on the side of various government organizations (Who out there trusts the AMA? Raise your hands. Okay, here's your lolly pop, you can go home now.)

Again, science knows some of it's limits today but individual scientists don't want to admit that they exist. Science can't deal with chaos. One of the biggest fiascoes of modern applied science is game management. Humans are not the natural predator around these parts and humans cannot control game populations. The more they try the more they screw up. The southeast has to deal with automobileacidal deer, exploding feral hog populations, and the new intrusion of the Western puma (which is replacing the vacuum left by the pretty much inoffensive Florida cougar) simply because of the involvement of the game managers, the hunters, and the farmers.

We think we can handle ecological trends - we can't. We think we can handle epidemiological trends - well, maybe a little better but not with the idiotic policies we have now.

I swear, the larger human population must want to die.

Kaitain said...

Wow, 98 comments already and counting as I post this! Perhaps people are finally starting to wake up.

As someone who has long subscribed to a cyclical view of history, I gave up on the Religion of Progress long ago. I read Oswald Spengler and Arnold Toynbee for the first time a decade ago (the local library here still has the full, unabridged editions of both “The Decline of the West” and “A Study of History”) and they both had a huge influence on my thinking. I came to Spengler and Toynbee in large part from reading “The Pentagon of Power” by Lewis Mumford, which was one of his last works. By then Mumford had become thoroughly disillusioned by the Cult of Progress and reconsidered his earlier, optimistic views about technology and the modern world. If you haven’t read “The Pentagon of Power”, it’s well worth the effort. Mumford’s observations about the World Trade Center in New York City back when it was still a set of blueprints and a builder’s scale model in 1965 were quite prophetic, especially in light of its eventual fate…

Of course the buffalo herds will return and the great experiment by the palefaces on the prairie will fail. Everything comes to an end sooner or later, but the cycle continues and time marches on. If I remember correctly, it was Einstein who said that you cannot break the laws of nature, you can only break yourself against them. Our descendents will eventually learn to work with nature, instead of engaging in a misguided attempt to bend and break it to their wills, and that will be one of the factors that eventually leads to the ecotechnic cultures and civilizations of the future. The prairie will go back to being occupied by tribes of nomadic warriors on horseback and will probably play a similar role in the future history of North America that the steppes of Central Asia did in Eurasian history. The future inhabitants of the Great Plains will probably be a mixture of indigenous nations like the Lakota, the Comanche and the Kiowa and Hispanic immigrants who revive the traditions of the vaqueros. The world keeps turning and the forces of history and nature can only be temporarily diverted or denied, but not for long…

sgage said...

@ JMG (and Chris)

"Cherokee, I'm left wondering what the missing keystone species was -- the common Australian bunyip, possibly? ;-)"

Pretty sure it was Drop Bears... ;-)

(say, the captchas have gotten hard again!)

avalterra said...

I miss album covers...

Varun Bhaskar said...


If adding a single species can do that then what happens when you remove say 1-2 billion of another species?

Industrial scale agriculture may not be possible on the plains but subsistence agriculture certainly is.

Everyone else,

The dour mood on here is getting to me so I'm going to brighten up your days. I finally managed to get through to my friends. 14 of them are now preparing their FEMA recommended emergency kits. This Sunday, I'll be meeting with the matron of a wiccan group here in Madison, one of my friends is introducing me. I'm hoping to reach out to the rest of the neo-pagans in the area through her and relay the Druid's warning. In two weeks I'll be meeting with the pastor of a friends church to discuss emergency management plans, and get his congregation educated and prepared.

View on the Ground is also coming along. I'll be monetizing it soon, which should allow me to start doing some real news work.


Varun Bhaskar
Director of Hope and Fuzzies
View on the Ground

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

If public health services might be overwhelmed, at least in some localities, it would make sense for willing people to learn what kind of home care they can give to family and neighbors without extreme risk to themselves, and to stockpile needed supplies while those are available.

I would like to be prepared. I live around the corner from a fire station, but they will probably be overwhelmed too.

Can anyone refer me to online information on how untrained people can nurse the sick and dying? Or give advice based on your own medical expertise? First aid handbooks don't cover infectious tropical diseases.

Rehydration therapy? Homemade mix for that? Any other supportive measures that don't involve prescription drugs? Are gauze masks adequate protection, or are surgical masks required? Will eyeglasses do in place of goggles? Washable work gloves instead of latex? Boiling water and chlorine bleach for cleaning sheets?

John Michael Greer said...

Grebulocities, exactly. Ebola is following the normal process by which pathogens make the jump from animal to human hosts and then gradually normalize. Two or three thousand years from now Ebola will likely be a common childhood disease, the sort of thing most kids get and get over, like measles.

Marc, thank you.

Stuart, that's worth knowing.

Kylie, most Native American peoples did the same thing, with good effect. Some of our descendants may well do that as well.

Derv, it's entirely possible that the river valleys will continue to be farmed, while the plains in between go to herding or hunting nomads -- that's a fairly common pattern, historically. As for your proposed deal, you're on.

Brian, I'd rather just let evolution fill in the blanks itself -- we've messed up enough. As for Woodcraft and its equivalents, exactly -- thus my comment that a revival would be a very sensible thing right now.

Bogatyr, well, yes. I expect the medical system to collapse totally in most countries if this thing gets well under way.

KL, I certainly never heard that verse.

Jason, excellent. Yes, I've been thinking about that, too.

Violet, that's a fine choice of reading matter. I think, though, that so many people are enamored of the Tragic model that they'll follow it all the way down -- they've earned their last big scene, and won't let anyone take it away from them! Those who prefer the Comic model need to lie low, in the best Sancho Panza style, and wait for the Tragedy to finish.

Raven, of course people will still be around -- remember that even under West African conditions, 30% of the people who catch Ebola survive it.

Hector, I appreciate hearing that from you. I hope you're making as much in the way of preparations as you can -- as a physician, you're going to be in the firing line if a pandemic gets going here.

Justin, excellent! I have a set of those, and you're quite right.

LewisLucanBooks said...

Sometimes things go right, but, generally, if something can go wrong, it will.

I heard a segment on NPR yesterday about the guy tht made a run at the White House. He made it through 5 layers of security. There was a discussion of what went wrong at each layer. Truly, a "comedy" of errors. So it will be with Ebola. Anybody for the opening scenes of Stephen King" "The Stand?"

Besides getting buttoned up for winter, I'm also thinking in terms of "what if I have to hold up for three months?" I'm looking at everything I eat and do.

Sure, I'll probably miss some things. Hopefully, whatever I miss won't be lethal. Just something that can be done without, worked around or adapted to. If lethal, well, I'm of an age that every day is an unexpected pleasure and that an ending is inevitable. I accept that, and there's not (much) fear.

A good book on the Black Death is "The Great Mortality" by Kelly. A good book on the 1918 flue epidemic is "Flu" by Kolata. And, if you want to get all Literary, there's always "The Plague" by Camus. Lew

John Michael Greer said...

Harriett (and everybody else who spotted that), thank you! Yes, that's the one.

Ando, that or the clatter of coconut shells. ;-)

Laato (i.e., Mary), you're most welcome! I appreciate your efforts to knock some sense into the clueless on this issue.

Mr. Geronimo, I wonder if they'll borrow a term from our way of talking about the endgame of the classical Maya, and refer to the Terminal Industrial period... One way or another, though, yes, I think we're at the hinge between two ages now.

Kyoto, exactly -- if that happens, everything changes.

Don, granted, but that's not the way most Americans like to think.

Donalfagan, that's priceless. If it's not on the front page of CNN, it doesn't exist. Didn't that use to be the official line, except with Pravda?

Neo, I hadn't read either of those books -- clearly a mistake. Thanks for the heads up.

Permian, thank you.

Tom, I'm embarrassed to say I only discovered the Daily Impact a few weeks ago -- though it's a regular read now. Here's to sanctuary indeed! (clink)

Tracy, thank you.

RPC, perhaps so.

Onething, no argument there. Most of the steps that could keep an Ebola pandemic from going global are not being taken, not for any particular reason, but because the people who could take them are staring blankly at their onrushing fate, blindly convinced that nothing bad can ever actually happen to them. Maybe that's the reason why barbarian warlords are so popular during the twilight of a civilization -- in a crisis they will actually do something.

troy said...

There is a weird and disquieting disconnect between words and actions in regards to Ebola. For example, the media keep saying over and over again that the transmissibility of Ebola is very low. Indeed there was an article just now on that made the truly remarkable claim that Ebola is actually less contagious than either HIV or Hepatitis C.

And that isn't even the first time I have seen that claim put forward in the media. Yet if that were true, what's up with the hazmat suits? Does it really need to be pointed out that doctors don't need a hazmat suit to treat an HIV patient? Why would they need one to treat a disease supposedly even harder to get than HIV? More importantly, how is it that doctors have been infected with Ebola *despite* the hazmat suits?

This notion that Ebola is less contagious than HIV is an outright lie of course-- so obviously false that I have a hard time believing that the people who frantically proclaim such things are unaware that they are spreading misinformation. But the fact that the media/government is deliberately spreading false-but-soothing information-- presumably to prevent a panic-- is, if anything, more frightening than if they were trying to whip up public hysteria (as they did with bird flu, West Nile virus, etc). Overnight the number of potentially exposed contacts in Dallas went from 18 to "about 100" and four additional people were put under quarantine. By now, damage control (by which I mean border/airport closings) should at least be on the table for discussion. Several African and Asian countries have already closed their borders to Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. But political correctness apparently prevents us from even talking about doing the same. It may already be too late for that anyway. I think it's past time for the elites to level with us and admit that they are too far behind the curve to catch up at this point. But they can't do that now-- midterm elections are coming up. Have to paste on a smiley face.

Meanwhile, the coca harvest season begins in October in West Africa, source of half the world's cocoa. Throngs of migrant workers are normally streaming into Liberia, Ivory Coast, and neighboring countries at this time of year, all set to do some seriously sweaty labor. I'm sure nothing could go wrong with that; after all, the alternative would be for the first world to pay higher prices for chocolate this year.

Five8Charlie said...

Unfortunately, I can think of no better way for fascism - in the archdruidian sense - to sprout (I was going to say 'root', but we're past that stage) in America than for the clamoring for a strong leader to shut the country down once a pandemic gets out of hand.

John Michael Greer said...

Ando, indeed I did -- it's the same essay by Mary Odum I cited in the post, just on a different website.

Heretick, I admit I won't be an early volunteer for the first version of the vaccine. Mistakes get made, especially when everything's being done in a hurry.

William, thanks for the background. Thing is, the tribes at this point are just proposing buffalo herds on their own land, not on anyone else's. I suppose the Brucellosis issue remains -- but I think the emotional issues are dominant.

BoysMom, it's quite possible that from now on, most of the rain you get will be in sudden downpours. Catchment basins and cisterns may be worth investigating.

Heretick and Becky, that's the one. Thank you.

Don, the people I know who have health care training insist that the media is overgeneralizing, and someone infected with Ebola will become infectious as soon as the viral load gets to a certain level -- which is around the time, but not identical to the moment, that obvious symptoms occur. As for the Hajj, that's got chills running down my spine; I can't think of a more effective mechanism to transmit the virus to people from all around the world, and then send them home to infect others.

Steve, I'm beginning to wonder how much of 21st century American demographics will look like the 19th century played in reverse.

1ab, thank you. That is to say, the answer to my question is, "No, nobody in DC or Wall Street has begun to think."

Carolyn, right on target.

Keith, and better meat, too. Have you tasted bison?

Wolfgang, exactly. I'll be talking about this as we proceed.

Architrains, yes, that sounds like Faux News. Gah.

Kaitain said...

Speaking of the Ebola pandemic, it doesn’t help matters that West Africa is home to some of the most corrupt and inept governments and some of the most dysfunctional societies on the face of the planet, some of which make even the notoriously incompetent administrations of George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Boris Yeltsin look like models of competence and sanity by comparison.

Jacopo Simonetta said...

Buffalo wind is Hope; pain and dead are sometime necessary to hope

John Michael Greer said...

Onething, exactly. My motto has always been "never blame on conspiracy what can be adequately explained by stupidity," but stupidity's going to get quite a workout explaining the present case.

LL Pete, it's entirely possible. On the other hand, it may not be necessary, depending on just how brainless the US authorities continue to be.

Paul, cases caused by an individual flying into the country are fairly easy to track. The more difficult issue is the slow spread through rural populations far from the centers of power -- that's what's spread things so far in West Africa, and it's apparently gotten across the Sahel to Sudan by the same route. Watch this space...

Mathprof, exactly.

Twilight, that's the one!

Ronald, hmm. I'm not sure what to say; I haven't observed any such change in tone or approach -- I've been saying harsh things about the stupidities of the existing order since this blog got under way, after all.

Onething, that sounds like a worthwhile read. Thanks for the tip!

Eric, I was a little startled by the speed of it, too -- but it was always going to be just a matter of time. Here we go.

MawKernewek said...

I think the reason George Monbiot sounded suprised at discovering that predators have such an effect on the ecosystem, is that there are barely any predators left in the UK larger than a domestic cat.

Therefore, the prevailing mode of thinking has been that ecosystems are regulated from the bottom of the food-chain up, from plants, to herbivores, their predators, and the apex predator at the top of the food chain. The back-feedback through a food web caused by predators has been something less considered.

1ab9a86a-8991-11e3-899b-000bcdcb8a73 said...

JMG, your comment that

"Maybe that's the reason why barbarian warlords are so popular during the twilight of a civilization -- in a crisis they will actually do something. "

...reminded me of an article I read by Robert Fisk, foreign correspondent for the UK Independent and before that for The Times. He has been based in Beirut since the mid 70s and has managed to avoid being kidnapped or murdered despite those things being very common there at various times. Undoubtedly it was the most dangerous city in the world for some years.

He explained something that the locals told him early on when he was trying to figure the place out. They said (I'm paraphrasing from memory here) that when something happens (= some kind of violence starts happening) the important thing is you must do something. Even if you don't know what is best, choose something and do it and try to look like you know what you're doing. Usually in a war zone, there is no way to be sure which direction will be safe, but standing around looking lost is the worst thing, so quickly pick something to do and do it.


Ed-M said...


Excellent post again. I was another one who was appalled when I found out that the medical staff in that Dallas ER sent the patient home the first time, only to come back with full blown Ebola the second time. I yi yi! And how many people did he infect along the way? It may be extraordinarily difficult to track them all down; plus, I think this kind of bungling will cause the US to have transmission rates rivaling those of third world countries -- at least in the prison and homeless populations.

On a positive note, I'm glad the Buffalo Common is making a comeback. And I'm not surprised the white people out there are taking it hard. For them, it's not just a rollback of progress, it's also a rollback of 'Merrica.

I wonder what will happen and who will have the right-of-way when the first large buffalo herd crosses an interstate for the first time, he he!

pace deorum

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

With a few clicks I found a partial answer to my own question.

This is a manual from 1998 for setting up an isolation ward to treat Ebola patients in Africa. It includes various make-do measures. The level of precautions for preventing further transmission of the disease is daunting.

Ed-M said...

Hi Troy,

You may not know or remember this, but Jimmy Carter leveled with us back in 1979 with his "Malaise Forever" speech (well that's what some wags called it, and the Simpsons ran with it in one of their episodes!). To cut it short, the American people reacted with a resounding "NOooooo!" and the elites have not been leveling with us since.

Bret said...

Not on point with Ebola or the Buffalo Wind, but for what it's worth to those of us playing "peak oil psychology bingo", I thought this WSJ piece was curiously off-center enough from the perspective of its source so as to be a somewhat interesting read and worth sharing.

While the source (of course), the title and a lot of the text would say otherwise, to my surprise I did seem to detect a thread of respect for the concept of peak oil woven into the piece. Seem like a bit of an odd data point, as I feel I've been trained to expect shriller and shriller rejections of post-peak reality as time spools along.

Maybe it's me seeing things that aren't there; maybe it's a symptom of some sort of movement along the Kubler Ross spectrum in unexpected places, or maybe it's just what you get when the WSJ starts hiring writers based in Austin...

Neo Tuxedo said...

*bows* You're welcome. The Te of Piglet is the one with more direct observations on the coming transformation (in a chapter punningly called "The Day of Piglet"), but its predecessor is certainly worth reading.

Eric S. said...

Yep... Here we go... Do you have any backup plans in the event that a round of crises winds up bringing down the internet and you outlive this blog? I bet the prospect of an Archdruid Report radio broadcast would motivate enough of your readers to get amateur radio licenses and start making radios for you to start a guild! Or do you secretly already have one?

As for Ebola... I think that the most sickening thing about it is that countries like the US can be so distanced from reality that a year from now the death toll could be in the multi-billions and people will still be saying "I'm worried this could get really bad" Or "there's nothing to be concerned about it's not going to get really bad." Every time I hear one of those two sentences I just cringe... It's bad enough now even if it doesn't get worse and to say it's not is just... Cold...

Stephen Purvis said...

Re doubling time: I got 252 days, but I'm only just learning to use this slide rule, so happy to be corrected or supplied with tips!

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi JMG and sgage,

Yeah, watch out for those drop bears. On a serious note, they're grumpy and mostly drunk from the toxic diet of eucalyptus leaves that they eat. Plus they sound like razorback the feral boar. Nasty little claws that'll do you up a treat mate - Look at the bones!!! hehe! On a serious note and as a fun fact: they actually prefer manna gums which are so named because during summer those trees drop a sweet gum like product which is edible and a traditional source of sugar around these parts.

You know, JMG, I reckon we've had this conversation before in the distant past, but memory fades...

The keystone species here was in fact the bunyip, which most people suspect is the cultural memory of the only local mega fauna - Diprotodon.

The fossil records for this beast disappear once humans arrived on the continent. You can even see the bones at places like the Naracoorte caves in South Australia where they accidentally fell in and died. They must have been tasty beasties!

Anyway, the humans then found to their dismay that once they'd eaten all of these beasts, they then had to perform the eco-system services of this animal. They had in fact promoted themselves to the unpaid position of key-stone species.

Who'd have thunk it? Nature provides eco-system services free of charge!

Incidentally, I'm discovering here that that particular function if wielded thoughtfully, promotes an increasingly productive eco-system over time. It is just a lot of work. Once the system is set up though, it is very easy to maintain and therein lays the true beauty of biological systems.



Rita said...

One of the useful rules of thumb for medical personnel is "when you hear hoof beats, think of horses, not zebra." In ordinary times this reminds diagnosticians that the patient with a fever and a cough is more likely to have the flu than Ebola. Obviously this rule backfires when the possibility of a zebra stampede becomes real.
I just read a story of a nursing student in Liberia who kept 3 out of 4 of her family alive at home with an elaborate routine involving four layers of gloves, plastic trash bags, etc. donned twice a day, guided by her one year of nursing training. But, readers of this blog will note that plastic bags and gloves do not grow on trees. Nor do the tons of single use medical supplies that are now routine. I just found myself wondering if modern hospitals even have equipment for routine sterilization on-site anymore? Or does everything arrive prepackaged and disposable?

steve pearson said...

I just noticed that I wrote 1969 instead of 1959 about the incident in Korea. Places it in a somewhat different historical context.

John Michael Greer said...

Raven, there have been suggestions along those lines for a while now; an interesting question, and possibly one of very high relevance just now.

Joe, agreed. The first thing I did when Sara and I bought the place we live is start tearing out the lawn and replacing it with garden beds.

Ando, many thanks! That's the one.

Alphonse, thank you.

Richard, in the current outbreak the death rate has been running around 70% without medical care, and rather better than that if you've got some degree of care. Since I live in a small town, it's probably a safe bet that by the time Ebola gets here, the US health care system will be in total collapse, so I'm laying plans for home care. Rehydration is crucial; there are traditional medicinal herbs with strong antiviral properties, and there are also herbs that protect the liver, which is the main organ Ebola hits. It's a bit like getting ready for a all-out fight when you have time to prepare and size up the other guy: you can't guarantee a favorable outcome, but if you can make the odds better than a coin toss, that's worth doing.

Nathan, it is indeed.

Adrian, we can hope!

Ecologist, thank you. The point of this blog is to hit people across the face with the cold, wet mackerel of reality.

SweaterMan, yes, I read that. Hoo boy. A month from now, if infections start popping up all over the Muslim world, we'll know we're in for it sooner rather than later.

Peacegarden, thank you. No need to bring it; it's coming on its own four hooves.

Dammerung, it's not at all uncommon for that sort of bizarre religious movement to kick off during a time of pestilence. I admit I'd rather see people wake up to the need to live in harmony with the cycles of nature, but that's just me. (What would you call people who worship an anime character? I think the word "animist" is already taken...)

Howard, funny. Listening to Musk these days is rather reminiscent of an old Cheech and Chong movie, where the protagonists spend all their time stoned out of their gourds saying really, really stupid things. I wonder what Musk has been smoking -- old copies of pulp SF magazines?

John Michael Greer said...

Brian, I'll have a look at it! Thanks for the recommendation.

SLClaire, my guess is that Ben just doesn't get the exponential function. It's very counterintuitive. As for Tuchman's book, that's an excellent suggestion for reading material just now!

NosVemos, well, I hope somebody gets a clue and lets the beavers get to work. I wonder how many simple solutions to massive problems are being ignored because they amount to letting nature take care of it.

Judy, you're very welcome. I remember how strongly Seton's phrase resonated with me when I first read his essay!

Herr Doktor, oh, granted. It's not as though we don't have a bubbling cauldron of pathogens waiting for us as the fragile structure of public health breaks down.

Robert, the moment you said "Tower time," that's the image I thought of. No surprises there, I suspect.

Steve, a lot depends on how vulnerable the US government and economic system are to sudden unraveling. There might be attempts to impose some such stupidity; alternatively, there might not be enough of a national structure left to do the thing. Time will tell.

Leo, I've heard -- though can't vouch for the statement, as I haven't had time to check into it -- that the guy in Dallas got sent home with an antibiotic because he didn't have health insurance. That is to say, you're probably right.

Wolf, I didn't know that the puma had expanded into the southwest -- that's very good news, though I suspect a lot of people down that way will disagree. There needs to be a climax predator to keep deer and feral hogs from wrecking the ecosystem, and Felis concolor ought to be just the ticket.

Kaitain, that's basically my take, adjusted for long-term climate change. Industrial civilization is a temporary phenomenon, and when it passes, what replaces it isn't going to look much like our notion of progress.

Sgage, now I have to look those up!

Avalterra, so noted.

John Michael Greer said...

Varun, actually, no -- subsistence agriculture makes sense in the river valleys but not elsewhere; agriculture was only viable on the plains at all because there were railroads to take the harvest back to markets further east. Factor in the exhaustion of groundwater and topsoil and you've got a losing proposition across the board. Congrats, though, for helping your friends to get a clue; if nothing else, the Ebola pandemic may finally manage to make Americans realize that if things go pear-shaped, we're on our own.

Unknown Deborah, try to find an old book on home nursing care -- the Red Cross used to sell them -- and then combine that with everything you can find on infection control. Rehydration is easy -- water plus sugar and a little salt will do it, or you can stockpile Gatorade. Then do your best and pray.

Lewis, oddly enough, I was remembering the same book -- also George Lewis' Earth Abides.

Troy, exactly. If it's so hard to catch, why are people catching it through tight infection control procedures? I didn't know about the cocoa harvest; combine that with the Hajj, and we've got the ingredients for a global pandemic within six months or so. Gah.

Charlie, yes, that's also a possibility -- at least as much in the immediate aftermath as in the crisis itself.

Kaitain, nah, they're just too short on money to afford the media management to cover their incompetence.

Jacopo, I don't see the Buffalo Wind as hope, I see it as reality -- the reality to which industrial civilization has been trying to close its eyes and ears all these years. That reality includes pain and death, and also life and joy -- and it reminds us that you can't have one side of that balance without the other.

MawKernewek, that makes sense. I grew up in a city that was occasionally visited by pumas, and had a sizable population of urban coyotes.

1ab, that's one of the basic rules of strategy: any action is better than no action at all.

Ed-M, it depends on how heavily armed the Native American riders are who accompany the herd!

Bret, the denial is about to break. When the first big fracking firm declares bankruptcy, it'll be over for a while.

Neo, they're on the get-to list.

Meg J said...

I feel rather like I'm chomping on virtual popcorn today (at least that stuff is GMO free), watching the world go round as I worked on Ebola in an IT sense, configuring a laboratory system to deal with testing for it, and also read about how to promote my own website through URL manipulations.
In between all that, and reading the comments here, I shredded paper in preparation for soaking to make fuel pellets. It's fall--lots of leaves to soon go and gather so I can add more organic matter to the paper pulp ... As remarked by others here, looks like a good weekend coming to stock up on food supplies.
Oh, and I also attended a fitness class, where the instructor (an elementary teacher too) talked about her interaction with a young student, who wanted to create a time capsule. They had a good time discussing content as it pertained to technology apparently, and it was clear the student had high hopes for a gizmo-laden future. I was going to say something, but in the end remained quiet as there just didn't seem to be any point.

On the Buffalo wind? I'm reminded of a favourite poem by Siegfried Sassoon "Gloria Mundi". Seems rather metaphorical too right now.

Who needs words in autumn woods
When colour concludes decay?
There old stories are told in glories
For winds to scatter away.

Wisdom narrows where downland barrows
Image the world's endeavour.
There time's tales are as light that fails
On faces fading forever.

onething said...

Deborah Bender,

Regarding home treatment of ebola, I started thinking about this last week. Keeping the person hydrated will be task number one. Those who die of ebola do so from hypovolemic shock and organ failure. It attacks the kidneys and liver, but I am unsure whether the kidney damage is from low blood volume or from the virus or both.

It occurs to me that several natural remedies that I often keep around the home might be useful. Vitamin C is probably number one. Vitamin K perhaps also, and vitamin D. And A. Research into herbs is in order. Oregano oil?

This year I gathered elderberry and made syrup. But you can buy it and you can buy dried berries in bulk. Elderberry is meant to be quite medicinal, and has antiviral properties.

Avoid tylenol and aspirin or ibuprofen. The latter can make the bleeding worse and tylenol may deplete the body of something but I forget what. Also, very hard on the liver, which is having enough trouble. I suppose that in a hospital setting, tylenol will be given copiously. I think this is a mistake.

Pine needles are very high in vitamin C and a tea could be made.

Don't forget garlic, although it is quite possible the sick will not be able to stomach it.

A dilution of bleach does indeed kill the virus. If you are caring for someone sick, give thought to collecting their vomit and feces, and have a place to remove it to. I'm thinking a hole in the ground. You might want to stock up on plastic garbage bags. They can be used on the floor under a makeshift potty, used to wrap yourself up in in lieu of other gowns.

I don't think a gauze mask is adequate, but I'm not sure what you mean by gauze. There is a light cottony mask they use in the hospitals which seems quite thin but it is comfortable and I might use two.
Not sure what you mean by washable work gloves. You want your gloves to be rubber or plastic and soft enough to let you do fine tasks. If you have the finer, medical type gloves, you can double glove. They've got pictures of people in Africa wearing what looks like classic dish washing gloves, but I think they are doing bigger tasks like removing dead bodies.

The main thing is not to touch anything in the vicinity or let anything touch your skin that might be contaminated. If caring for a person with strong vomiting or diarrhea, try to be careful, step back and don't get in the line of fire. It would probably be necessary to have some sort of bedside toilet and vomit basin, that's why I suggested taping down black plastic bags to contain the contaminated area and the sick person will probably have little strength to walk to the bathroom anyway. The sick person should be confined to one room and only a completely attired caregiver should enter.

I am supposing that your glasses would be adequate. You don't want to lean in toward the sick person's face with your own face.

I am actually wondering, if a sick person could be kept hydrated, the biggest challenge, might some home treatments of herbs and vitamins give the greatest positive outcome?

sgage said...

Here is a valuable reference ;-) ;-)

"Analysis of the collected data provides valuable insights into the hunting behaviour of drop bears and has implications for a better understanding of the geographical distribution of other rare species, including hoop snakes and bunyips."

wolfvanzandt said...

Mr. Greer, you're probably right, but I would prefer the original predator of the deer, the wolf.

onething said...

I'm not sure I was clear about why I am so outraged. See, no doubt they will contain this outbreak in Texas. The problem is, they are allowing people to travel here from those countries. How many other people from Liberia got on that plane and where did they go? How many people flew out the next day and the next? Perhaps we will have multiple, more or less simultaneous outbreaks.

By the way, a recent research paper says the Black Death was probably not plague. Plague travels very slowly, and the Black Death traveled as much as thirty miles in a day or two. Black Death responded to quarantine, whereas rats to not obey quarantines. It seems to have actually been a hemorrhagic, ebola-type virus.

magicalthyme said...

I forget now if it was last week or the week before that I predicted sporadic, small outbreaks of Ebola in the US. I've been waiting for the 1st traveler to bring it here while asymptomatic. Although I expected sooner or later there would be mistakes, I certainly didn't anticipate the 1st positive case would be so badly bungled.

Don, no. Questioning travel history is standard protocol in collecting medical history. Anybody presenting with a fever and/or sore throat and/or flu-like symptoms who has been in any Ebola country should be (and in dozens of cases, have been) immediately isolated, monitored and tested.

It was the kind of mistake we all dread making. EDs can get very busy, hospitals are running very lean, staff is overworked, overtired and prone to errors. The triage nurse got the information and passed it along to the delivery team. Somehow it got overlooked. Simple human error because we are not machines.

This is the start of a nightmare. They finally were only able to clean the apartment today because nobody was very interested in that job. Can't imagine why not?!

I read a report yesterday from the center where Brantly was treated -- they generated huge amounts of hazardous waste daily and couldn't get rid of it because nobody could meet the government requlations around Ebola waste. They had to purchase numerous large trash bins and store it on site while searching for help. They finally resolved the problem by autoclaving all the waste, with help from the CDC facility up the road from them. How will ordinary hospitals deal with this?

In the meantime, the patient's family is now under police guard after attempting to leave their apartment against orders.


magicalthyme said...

JMG, you mentioned expecting to be in home care by the time Ebola reaches you. Hopefully that won't happen for any of us, but be aware that remaining hydrated with Ebola isn't a matter of drinking lots of fluids. Once the vomiting phase begins, patients can't keep anything down, including fluids. The only way I'm aware of to remain hydrated in such a situation is by IV.

Ebola messes with your coagulation; the description sounds similar to disseminated intravascular coagulation, with clots forming in the liver and I think the kidneys. I'm not sure what herbs might be helpful in such a situation, but will start looking into it this weekend...


Michael McG said...

I love the American Bison AKA Buffalo. I just finished a great Bison Burger for dinner and expect a good energy surge tomorrow from the animal. I live in the USA in the state of Minnesota. Akin to Russian Siberia except for larger metro areas, wolves are still part of our physical ecosystem. Like the wolf I hunt deer and other animals in the symbiotic energy cycle of life and death. Lest I lead you to far from the truth, know I've lived much of my professional life on the front lines of virtual change as an IT business analyst and project manager and jumped off the hamster wheel a few months ago because trying to meet the current unrealistic corporate\government expectations burnt me out. At this point in my life I'm not too worried about Ebola or next quarter GDP nor even if I can pay the rent. My primary concern is exercising my energies to making each day a good one for me, my kin and neighbors.
This expectation may be unrealistic but I'm not deterred Failte!

Carl said...

Dear JMG ,
Found this good Ebola prep article on
On survival Good site for preppers but heavy on the Christian slant.
Of course most of the advise is to buy things but putting up some extra supplies might not be a bad idea .

1ab9a86a-8991-11e3-899b-000bcdcb8a73 said...

This paper was published recently in Science:

"Genomic surveillance elucidates Ebola virus origin and transmission during the 2014 outbreak"

Scientific papers usually list acknowledgements at the end, but this one has something I've never seen before, an "In memoriam" statement:

"In memoriam: Tragically, five co-authors, who contributed greatly to public health and research efforts in Sierra Leone, contracted EVD and lost their battle with the disease before this manuscript could be published: Mohamed Fullah, Mbalu Fonnie, Alex Moigboi, Alice Kovoma, and S. Humarr Khan. We wish to honor their memory."

From what I can gather here:

... they were very experienced and highly trained.

I think this furthers the point made by Shining Hector about transmission.

Ray Wharton said...

The severity of dire news coming in has me on edge, especially since at the moment I am more than a hundred miles from Fort Collins where I operate, and will be for another two weeks. There are some moves I would like to be making to prepare, mostly in terms of gifting preparatory measures to carefully chosen friends; but during my time away I will be able to refill my coffers enough to afford to take more actions than I could make by hurrying back to Fort Collins.

The advantage of exponents is that you have a block of breathing room at the beginning before things reach the break in the line. Here in America it is very likely that we have months before infection rates have a chance to become a major existential hazard. With some luck we might have a good bit longer than that, even moderately effective control responses could bottle neck expansion for a while. This does not change the fact that we face an extreme risk of a serious global pandemic, but it is worth remembering that exponential trends themselves are not governed by their own progress narrative and can stall out for reasons that are hard to foresee. Only fools count on such stalling, but the wise remember that they can happen, they do not mean the danger is over, and that they mean that the time frame for the danger reaching a particular area is very unpredictable. It could get a foot hold where you live in March or maybe not for years; we don't know. There is still some room for doubt that this will get out of control globally, though that room is many times smaller than is commonly appreciated.

The complication of this coming into view at a time when the popping of the Fracking bubble is also threatening to disrupt substantial and unpredictable sections of business as usual makes things more delicate.

So, I am going to make sure that I am ready with famine foods to make it to winter; I need to get my garden supplies in good order; consult the apothecary about having a good herb pouch ready; consult with trusted friends about emergency plans, duties and rights under various contingencies. And I don't even know where I am living this winter, if I face any existential threat there are enough land owners who value my services enough to intervene, and it would teach me humility!

Alright Wizards, if the next year is going to be a crazy one, lets be our best and face it with courage, grace, and wisdom. The dice are rolling, and if you think you have something to offer your community now is the time to put it on the table. If things get to the point that the Green Wizards are struggling remember that many people, potentially very good people, could be in much worse condition, if you are given the opportunity to help them at a tolerable risk level that right there is the opportunity that community in a strong sense can take root in.

Michael Cain said...

A nit, perhaps, but conflating everything from the western edge of the Great Plains to the eastern tall grass prairies of Illinois always annoys me. At the western edge you get 15 inches of precipitation a year. Much of the Great Plains has never been plowed, a fair amount has seldom been grazed -- it's miserably suited for agriculture. At the eastern end of that stretch, you get 40 inches of precipitation a year and had a completely different ecosystem. Radically different settlement patterns and population distributions. And of course, all of it was forested until about 12,000 years ago when the glaciers finished retreating and grass got the upper hand.

The population of the Great Plains proper has been steadily shrinking since the 1930s, with people retreating back towards the edges (eg, Denver on the western edge and Omaha on the eastern). The only significant exceptions are the areas of Texas (and now North Dakota) with large hydrocarbon deposits. The Poppers are going to win, although it may take a bit longer than they thought.

Kutamun said...

I see the Ghost Dance has reared its head here ....
I seem to remember one of the peak oil writers disparaging this bit of magic as a waste of time and quite delusional when it was originally carried out , but sometimes i have to wonder .
Like the Australian Aborigines for whom every rock , creek , tree and mound was a living creature , the Indians are largely gone but no doubt their magic remains , and some of their curses / predictions are seemingly coming to pass .
In Ozland the " songlines " between the three hundred or so tribes circled the continent for many millennia as the group travelled to the edge of their tribal area , exchanged the songs with the neighbours , travelled to the other edge and transmitted the songs to the next group and so in and so force . Magic of this nature would undoubtedly persist for a long time after its participants had vanished , who knows who deep amd complex the cause and effext of its working out ...
At the start of Medwyn Goodalls "spirit dancer " you can listen to the words of an indian chief , must have had some primitive voice recorder ...does anyone know what he is saying ?
The effect is quite haunting .....

John Michael Greer said...

Eric, I don't have a secret guild but I do have ham radio gear -- though it's been a while since I've had the spare time to get on the air. As for "bad," for most people in today's America, "bad" means "it affects me." They may have some very bad days coming...

Stephen, you're well within rounding errors. Good.

Cherokee, I don't suppose they've been able to extract a good genetic sequence from those bunyip bones.

Rita, no, it's all one use and then throw away these days. That's going to add to the fun and games, definitely.

Steve, true enough.

Meg, Sassoon was one of the poets who saw the First World War up close, and so yes, he's relevant just now.

Sgage, many thanks -- a fine bit of scientific research! I didn't know you had hoop snakes down under -- they're a common element of US folklore as well. I suppose they must have evolved originally on Gondwanaland, and reached North America after the opening of the Panama land bridge. ;-)

Wolf, understood, and you'll get them eventually, but it's going to take a while -- pumas seem to do better in human-infested areas. Pumas are also better equipped to take down feral hogs, which iirc are a large and growing element of biomass down your way.

Onething, exactly -- it's the difference between outbreaks that can probably be controlled and outbreaks that probably can't.

Magicalthyme, having worked in the medical field (and also helped a relative maneuver his way through a hospital stay marked with stunning displays of incompetence and malpractice), I wasn't surprised at all. Appalled, but not surprised. As for rehydration, the method that's been used with some success in Africa is frequent sips of rehydration fluid -- never a large amount at once -- taking advantage of the fact that water, sugar, and salt can be absorbed directly through oral tissues. Please do look into herbal liver and kidney treatments; you won't be the only one doing so, but many eyes are an advantage here.

Michael, good. That spirit is probably the best option at this point.

Carl, thanks for the link.

Draft said...

JMG - It's very interesting you've mentioned possible herbal responses to ebola or viruses like it. I've been trying to read about such possibilities and haven't found any good ones. Would you mind sharing what herbs and herbal practices you have in mind? (And if you are worried that I will take this as medical advice or anything of the sort -- don't worry, I will do my own research, I just need some starting points.) Thank you!

John Michael Greer said...

1ab, that's why I have trouble trusting the media claim that Ebola is hard to transmit!

Ray, that's all any of us can do. Unless the industrial nations start taking this whole business much more seriously starting very, very soon, there's a real chance that some of us are going to be dead in the not too distant future. That was always going to happen -- the fall of a civilization involves a lot of death, and it's not distributed solely to the clueless -- and I know it's a bit of a shock to see it transition from "someday" to "soon." Still, here we are; it's time to choose the place to make your stand.

Michael, of course you're right. I've never lived in the plains country, so tend to lose track of the distinctions.

Kutamun, the Ghost Dance failed. The prophecies of Wovoka may come true someday, but they certainly didn't come true in time to save a lot of Native people from a miserable fate. I expect to see a lot of cargo cult phenomena over the next few decades, presuming that I live that long, as people in the industrial world try everything to make the petroleum age come back; good luck with that.

Draft, in this country I run a legal risk these days if I even make suggestions. I'd encourage you to read up on herbal antivirals and herbs that benefit and protect the liver, and if mainstream medical care is no longer available to you, make your own choices.

DeAnander said...

To whoever asked, way back upthread... I read a study about a year ago, or a reference to a study, which suggested that the total annual tonnage of meat produced by the Great Plains bioregion when it was a climax prairie populated by millions of bison far exceeded the annual tonnage of beef produced today by "advanced" farming methods -- i.e. using enormous fossil resources, draining aquifers, and contaminating land and water with various chemicals, hormones, etc. In other words, we are spending more resources and doing significant damage to produce less meat than the ecosystem was producing every year *for free*.

But... the reasons for destroying that immensely productive ecosystem were deeply political as well as individually selfish. For a start, the masses of bison were a *commons*, which was antithetical to the cult of private ownership and Enclosure that had swept Northern Europe starting, oh, sometime in the 1500s at a guess. Fenced-in, branded, individually *owned* cattle were ideologically acceptable in a way that bison simply were not. [I believe a similar terror of the commons underlies the enthusiasm for CAFO salmon which governments exhibit even at the cost of their precious wild salmon stocks: CAFO salmon are caged, identifiable, owned, private property, whereas wild salmon are a commons.]

And for seconds, the bison were a keystone of food security and a cultural icon of profound meaning and importance to the indigenous people; so as soon as the political decision was made to displace or exterminate those people, the bison had to go. Food security for non-whites was a nono (you can find other examples galore in colonial history of the destruction or outlawing of indigenous foodways and food sources, damming of watercourses to starve out indigenous farmers, etc).

So the decision was made, in the not-quite-informal almost-spontaneous kind-of-official-but-deniable way that such things happen, to exterminate the bison; and that accorded well with base elements in human nature like greed, cruelty, wanton destructiveness, so there was an ample supply of volunteers to commit the act of ecocide. The question of what was the most efficient, low-cost, or sustainable way to produce large amounts of excellent meat was never even, so to speak, on the table. That was never the point.

Janet D said...

May I suggest to all here who are interested (and who do not currently have a copy) to get thee-selves to the nearest bookstore or internet café and to order Stephen Buhner's latest book (at least I think it is his latest):

Herbal Antivirals: Natural Remedies for Emerging & Resistant Viral Infections

For those unfamiliar with him, Buhner is an amazing herbalist, and has long, long been clanging the bells about emerging pathogens and Western medicine's complete lack of effective medicines for them.

His Herbal Antibiotics book (2nd edition, not the 1st) is also amazing. It's helped me & my family deal effectively with recurrent MRSA infections.

More later.

Glenn said...

John Michael Greer said...

"Lewis, oddly enough, I was remembering the same book -- also George Lewis' Earth Abides."

That would be George R. Stewart. One of the first, and to my mind, still one of the best "Post Apocalypse" books I've read. One of the earliest to take air travel into consideration. Stewart taught college English, but two of his other books also had ecological themes. One about a Pacific storm, the other a Sierra forest fire.

Empty wallet, full larder. More harvesting yet to come.


In the Bramblepatch
Marrowstone Island
Salish Sea

DeAnander said...

BTW, more dots to connect

Some researchers think that human incursions into remote forested areas, deforestation, "development" in other words, have facilitated the initial exposures which started the epidemic.

Edward said...

September, between the 12th and 13th doubling, given a beginning figure of 1M cases on 1/1/15. I could give the precise date if I also weren't lazy . . .


Bogatyr said...

The source is new to me, so I can't vouch for its authenticity or reliablility. Nevertheless, a Texas-based friend shared this link on Facebook: Photos show ebola vomit being cleaned up with pressure hoses.

Anyone out there in a position to confirm this? Because if it's true, that would seem to be a bad thing....

beneaththesurface said...

In this recent news article about the first US Ebola case and what went wrong, I find it interesting that the Dallas hospital is blaming the lack of correct diagnosis last Friday not on human error, but on the electronic health record system:

“However, we have identified a flaw in the way the physician and nursing portions of our electronic health records (EHR) interacted in this specific case,” it added.

“In our electronic health records, there are separate physician and nursing workflows. The documentation of the travel history was located in the nursing workflow portion of the EHR, and was designed to provide a high reliability nursing process to allow for the administration of influenza vaccine under a physician-delegated standing order. As designed, the travel history would not automatically appear in the physician's standard workflow.”

Whatever benefits and efficiencies electronic medical records and highly specialized assessment & decision-making may have had during the industrial growth phase (although I would argue they've been problematic before serious social and economic deterioration are setting in), it seems to me that these computerized systems and high levels of medical specialization will become increasingly disadvantageous (for many reasons) as the global economy contracts and public health further deteriorates.

Zachary Braverman said...

From someone who writes for a living, man, you are such a good writer. You have a rare knack for combining carefully constructed argument with lyrical prose that is compelling yet not overblown. I think this of all your pieces, but this one in particular struck me as a fine piece of writing.

Don Plummer said...

From the For What It's Worth department:

A friend of mine who is a public health nurse and has spent considerable time in east Africa told me that Ebola has been in Sudan since about 1976. He went on to say that there are five strains of Ebola virus, and one of them is called the Sudan strain.

I asked him if he had any idea why the Sudanese government would want to keep a tight lip on this current outbreak, but I don't have an answer yet.

Kutamun said...

Berkley National Lab website

Ebola is a wormlike , filament shaped virus

From the Berkley National Lab Website
"The crystal structure of Ebolavirus GP reveals a three-lobed chalice-like structure. The three GP1 subunits (colored blue and green), mediate attachment to new host cells and are tethered together by the three GP2 subunits (white). GP2 forms the protein machinery that drives fusion of the viral membrane with the host cell. The human antibody KZ52 (yellow) binds the GP at the base of the chalice, where it bridges GP1 to GP2, before fusion of the membranes."

This particular nasty glyco-protein pgp :::
"It is responsible for decreased drug accumulation in multidrug-resistant cells and often mediates the development of resistance to anticancer drugs. This protein also functions as a transporter in the blood–brain barrier."
I wonder how many animals it has killed ?
It seems to be in the shape of a cup or chalice , and the number three and the colour red seem to crop up with it .....
Perhaps like Professor Dumbledore , we will be forced to drink , every drop ......???

magicalthyme said...

Without looking, milk thistle pops into my head as #1 for liver protection. That and carrots and dandelion leaves and flowers.

Also from memory, anything in the mint family has antiviral properties. (I successfully treated shingles a few years back with an infusion and poultice that included every mint in my garden, from plain mint, catmint, and lemon balm to oregano, plus licorice tea.)


Ice Torch said...

Talking of 1970s music, this week's title reminds me of Rod Stewart's superb "Mandolin Wind". Soon people will think you wrote all his songs, you'll collect all his royalties, and poor old Rod will die in penury.

Now that the MSM has you on their radar, maybe "greering" will become a verb:

Definition: shamelessly striking terror into the hearts of decent patriotic Americans with loose talk about "peak oil" and "civilisational collapse".

As for ebola, well, climate change will increase the incidence of lots of diseases. Last summer I was astounded to find a mosquito in my London living room, and again in my bedroom this summer. This is not supposed to happen in England. On both occasions I was bitten, producing the tell-tale lumps. Luckily they didn't even itch. Though I'm white English with Celtic ancestry in the 1800s, I have Mediterranean looks and tan at the drop of a hat, so I'm hoping I have some genetic immunity from somewhere in my ancestry. However, the popular press here has been writing articles about mosquitoes being here to stay and how disease-carrying species are poised to cross the English Channel. So, yes, "bad" means "it affects me", as you wrote in answer to one comment. I did not enjoy being on the menu of these tiny creatures, when I'm supposed to be at the top of the food chain, and the sound of their horrible whiny buzz drives me crazy.

Phil Harris said...

JMG & All
This is not behind a pay-wall
I am not sure whether this is behind a pay-wall but stories from survivor medics in W Africa stress they do not know in most cases how they got infected.

In one hospital (now closed) in Monrovia with 15 cases, nine died, most having apparently caught it from the Director who tested negative wrongly and was ill for 10 days before testing positive. I will spare you the details.

Hospitals are pretty good for some things but they do in general present concentrations of both infections and connectivity. And staff can live semi-communally. However, while infection numbers in the ordinary population remain few and localised, hospitals provide a means to quarantine patients during their most infectious phase. I guess though if numbers in the towns go up as in Liberia, hospitals are much less use in containing an epidemic, and also in this case add only modest prospects of better survival for individuals.

One disturbing result of tests on survivors indicates the virus in one case reappearing in semen. 'Carriers' if that is what this man is, represent a future serious threat.


Phil Harris said...

Further to, as it were, ... all bets are off? (Gallows humour)

Quote If the virus continues to spread at the current rate, Liberia and Sierra Leone alone will have reported about 550,000 Ebola cases by 20 January, the authors write. But if the official numbers so far represent only 40% of the real burden—which many believe may well be the case—that would mean a total of 1.4 million Ebola cases in those two countries by 20 January. “I certainly hope that we see nothing like those projections,” Donnelly says. “But I think it is a realistic projection of what would happen if we didn’t get our act together."

Getting real?


donalfagan said...

Greg Laden is a realist:

"First, let’s look at the situation in West Africa, because that is way more important than anything going on in the US right now. The WHO has said two things about this. First, if there is not a full intervention, there may be hundreds of thousands or even millions of cases of Ebola several months from now (cumulatively). Second, with full intervention they can stop this epidemic.

What is full intervention? They say that full intervention is the development and manufacture of an effective vaccine, and the deployment of that vaccine to a very large percentage of the affected population.

Putting this another way, the current response has been inadequate, and while it can be improved, it can’t be made adequate. Things are pretty bad, are going to get enormously worse, and there is little hope for any other outcome, unless full deployment of a vaccine that does not exist over the next six months is realistic.

Now let’s look at the US. Public health officials and public health experts have been saying the same thing for months. Don’t worry about an Ebola outbreak in the US. We can handle it. We know what we are doing, and we have the systems in place to take care of this. So just don’t worry.

I’m going to tell you now why this is probably both true and untrue."

Eric S. said...

I meant a secret radio broadcast, apologies for that sentence. I usually wind up writing comments a single word at a time spread out between spare moments here and there. It just crosses my mind that in the event that the proverbial fan gets soiled enough to gunk up its workings, radio might be a way to keep these discussions going. It seems like the really rough times will be times when a big picture perspective like the ones you offer here will be more needed than ever. Though it may also be that when it comes to it, we're going to wind up being the ones offering those perspectives to our friends and neighbors, who will need them more than ever.

You said to Ray:

"there's a real chance that some of us are going to be dead in the not too distant future. That was always going to happen -- the fall of a civilization involves a lot of death, and it's not distributed solely to the clueless."

I remember way back in the Long Descent, in your bulleted list of things we can do to prepare, one of the things you listed was "work on your spirituality." I'm sure to a lot of people that probably seemed like a strange thing to list as a prep skill, but more recently I've come to realize that a part of that does relate to the role of death in the future. The idea that living in times like this is necessarily about surviving them is, in a way, rooted in the myth of apocalypse, and the idea that the world that comes out on the other side of times like these is supposed to belong to us. It seems to me that part of the reason spirituality is so important in times like this is that our inner state can wind up making the difference between welcoming death openly as an old friend when it comes and dying in agony and turmoil, refusing to let go until the very last moment. Dying early and dying brutally doesn't mean you can't die well.

RPC said...

"...water plus sugar and a little salt will do it, or you can stockpile Gatorade." I recently had cause to need rehydration after a bout of diarrhea and used Pedialyte; its makers point out that it's much more effective than Gatorade and other sports drinks because the latter have far too high a concentration of sugar. The classic mixture for oral rehydration therapy solution is 6 teaspoons of sugar and a half teaspoon of salt to a quart of water. A bit of citric acid and/or zinc helps if the dehydration is severe.

peacegarden said...

@ Deborah Bender

“Where There are no Doctors” can be downloaded for free, also look for the Merck Manual…basic care and symptoms of common illnesses. That’s a start…a lot of home care is common sense; keeping the patient comfortable, hydrated and well rested.



RPC said...

Exponential function test question 2: if one person arrives in the United States with ebola and the case doubling time is twenty days, how long before all 300+ million inhabitants are infected? The answer is pretty sobering. As JMG has pointed out in other contexts, governments at all levels are not just going to sit on their hands and let this happen; I suspect that if push comes to shove (i.e. the infection spreads) and Rick Perry surrounds Dallas with the National Guard and only allows food in and nothing out for three weeks, he may be regarded as a hero.

peacegarden said...

@ Deborah Bender

I did not read your entire entry…oops!
Good hand washing is almost as good as wearing gloves…it’s easy to contaminate your hands while removing the latex ones (there is a technique in doing so safely, but it isn’t always followed.

Cloth gloves? I don’t think that would be useful. Rehydration…yes…salt, sugar and potassium possibly magnesium. There is a product you can buy now called Emergen-C; the ingredients Potassium phosphate, Magnesium hydroxide, Potassium bicarbonate (it fizzes), and some vitamins. Look on the interwebs for correct proportions…Merck Manual may have that too.

They are saying Ebola is not transmitted through breathing, but it may be larger droplets that are infectious…or may become so as this virus evolves.

I would say rest and rehydration are the main treatments…as to glasses verses goggles, there is all the rest of your face not covered by either, and gauze masks will get wet quickly from your own respirations…as can paper ones.

In a home setting, we will have to do the best we can; laundering bedding by hand, even with chlorine bleach, will be difficult. I am making an assumption that we may not have constant or even intermittent electricity; and we know what they say about assuming…



thecrowandsheep said...

I too am a little dismayed at the depressing tone of some of these comments. I have decided to write a short ballad to help cheer up the mood a little here. Feel free to sing this one around camp fires or at soccer matches.

Ebola -bola -bola!
increasing ex-po-nen-tial-ly
Ebola -bola -bola!
killing you and fa-mi-ly
Ebola -bola -bola!
already getting Su-da-ne-se
Ebola -bola -bola!
this time no vac-cin-ne
Ebola -bola -bola!
thanks to the god of mi-se-ry

Ebola -bola -bola!
underfunded grossly neglected bureacratically bogged down industrial medical complex unable to han-dle it
Ebola -bola -bola!

Raymond Duckling said...

Dealing with the emotions part of this Ebola outbreak - that is, accepting that we are facing a pandemic sooner rather than later - has been difficult for everybody I guess.

Intuition spoke to me and told "it is going to be at least as bad as the Spanish Flu". I really recommend you to go check the wikipedia article about that (and request if anyone can recommend some more serious resource about that too). It was the Great Pandemic of the 20 century, and studying it will teach us aspects of how this things move in a modern setting that simply do not exist in the Black Death references.

For starters, it is called "Spanish Flu" because at the time Spain remained neutral during WWI, meaning it had no incentive to fudge with the reports to prevent morale to go down in the troops, meaning the media spread the meme that Spain was hit disproportionally hard.

Some will say that there is no comparison, since Ebola is much more deadly. While this is true, Spanish Flu was not a walk in the park either. With mortality rates firmly in the double-digits percent and easier to transmit, it spared no continent, nation or region and killed 3-6% of the world population in a 2 year span. If Ebola manages to spread this much, there might as well be 1 billion lives cut short in a very messy and painful way.

Reflecting on this has made me realize that the odds that all of us will be spared are uncomfortably low, but the odds that all of us will die in this round are even lower. Without doubt someone's going to stay behind and will have to pick up the pieces afterwards. To think otherwise is to engage in apocalyptic fantasies.

Tracy Glomski said...

From my perspective out here on the Great Plains, I'd like to just mention a couple of points.

First, in response to this: "It’s hard to find any rational reason for that opposition—the Native peoples have merely launched a slow process of putting wild buffalo herds on their own tribal property, not encroaching on anyone or anything else..."

The broader discussion that's underway covers more than tribal lands. You can download a PDF of the Department of the Interior report here, about halfway down the webpage under the header "Holdings." There's a handy map on page 24, which shows the scope of public lands that are under consideration. When I look at the locations in Nebraska—Valentine National Wildlife Refuge, for example—I can't help noticing how much is still unknown, and how difficult it's going to be to manage the logistics, and how much budget is likely to be required. Where is the funding for that going to come from?

Second, in response to this: "Still, it’s one of the basic axioms of the Druid teachings that undergird these posts that people know more than they think they know, and a gut-level sense of the cascade of changes that would be kickstarted by wild buffalo may be helping drive their opposition."

I'm not personally opposed to the general idea of reintroducing bison, not at all. I do think there's a lot of truth in that statement, though. The issues are not as simple as "bison good, cattle bad." Not meaning to pick on any of your commenters in particular, but I sorta wish that everyone with a "huzzah, let the buffalo roam free!" attitude would at least take time to skim that very readable essay, which addresses some of the complexities that are involved. I could go on and talk about certain incidents and accidents involving bison in my immediate area, which have occurred over the past few years, and which have affected people I personally know. But, I won't.

RPC said...

It's worth noting that with a twenty day doubling period everyone would be infected only four months after a "mere" 1% of the population.
Gatorade: I got a bottle out of the basement (I have a kid in marching band; they have us parents bring in cases of the stuff during band camp in August) and checked the nutrition label. We're aiming for about 130 calories of sugar per liter of fluid, so original Gatorade needs to be diluted with an equal quantity of water to be used for ORT. G2 looks ready for use as is, probably because much of its sweetness comes from sucralose. You can use the above ratio to appropriately dilute other sports drinks.

peacegarden said...

@ Draft

Stephen Harrod Buhner’s “Herbal Antivirals” is the one I would recommend , it includes treatment protocols, materia medica for a large number of plants (more than a third of the book!), and a great bibliography for further research. Impressively comprehensive.



whomever said...

Interesting news of the times:
Make sure you read the conclusion, where the local officials flat out admit they are helpless:

“We will give people water as long as we have it, but the truth is, we don’t really know how long that will be,” said Andrew Lockman of the Tulare County Office of Emergency Services. “We can’t offer anyone a long-term solution right now. There is a massive gap between need and resources to deal with it.”

D.M. said...

Well, no surprise there with what DeAnander posted. I figured it out years ago that as those fairly unknown corners of African forest were explored we would eventually encounter some sort of a virus that would cause problems, lo and behold I have been proven right. The only consolation is that said virus is something that is previously known to us as opposed to something brand new.

mr_geronimo said...

About herbs to help the liver: in my house we use Artichoke and Boldo tea. I don't know effective they are, they were taught to me by my mother and my grandmother taught her, so it's folk medicine.
I'll probably take my chances with them: paracetamol will be a death sentence in liver-killing disease.

heather said...

Deborah Bender-
Thank you very much for posting the link to the VHF care manual. It's exactly what I had been hoping to find. My husband is an ER doc at a hospital serving a low-income community in California, so it's not at all unthinkable that he, and therefore the rest of my family, will be exposed to Ebola some time in the coming months. If this happens, I am assuming that the institutional care facilities will be overwhelmed. His ER has ONE room with air ducts that vent to the outside, thus suitable for isolating an infectious patient. The rest of the hospital's preparations are similarly pathetic. Right now the direction coming down from on high is that anyone who comes in with fever, headache, etc. and reports international travel is supposed to be isolated and tested for Ebola. So every guy coming back from visiting family in Mexico who comes in with the flu is going to get this level of examination and resources? You can see already that this directive is impossible to follow and so will be widely ignored- thus allowing real cases to slip through undetected. So I expect things to be bad here at some point. Rather than abandon any member of my family to the tender mercies of an Ebola tent in the parking lot of the hospital, with overwhelmed care staff and inept, panicked government officials "in charge", I am planning to care for family members at home, if, God forbid, it becomes necessary. So understanding how to do this with lower risk and with supplies I can round up without alerting homeland security is very, very helpful.
This mental exercise has been very useful for me in understanding the choices of many West Africans who do not want to take their family members in to Ebola "treatment" centers. It's not necessarily that they are ignorant or superstitious- quite the opposite, perhaps. They recognize that there is no magic treatment coming through the official channels, that the isolation wards are warehouses to hold the infectious until they either die or get better by themselves, and that perhaps they can better care for their loved ones at home. The trick is doing so without spreading the disease. All those who may be horrified at the idea of my planning not to use the official channels can rest assured that we will be self-quarantined in our rural home if these events should come to pass. Again, God forbid. Wish I had another incantation to ward off these events I fear, but that's all I've got.
--Heather in CA

Adrian Ayres Fisher said...

Hi Kutamun and JMG,

Re the ghost dance (if the reference was to my mention of the seventh fire peoples):

Just for clarification, when I was speaking of the seventh fire, I was not speaking specifically of the historical cult and misplaced hope of the ghost dance; rather, I was using the term in the sense of a modern Anishinaabe version I heard, in which the peoples of the seventh fire metaphorically "travel back along the path to pick up bundles" of old and useful modern knowledge to carry with them into the future. The surrounding dangers in this version are very real, any kind of success is not assured, and the story actually reminds me of the "story project" of this blog: green wizards and cultural conservers, not to mention ecologists, herbalists, druids and so on, in my view, are going about a similar project. So are the Indians and white (and Indian) naturalists and biologists working to reintroduce native prairie species, as well as organic farmers and gardeners and so on.

It is not a question of emerging into a new life of utopian peace and plenty, it is a question of understanding that human life should be based on natural systems and learning the traditional knowledge and other kinds of knowledge that can help heal ecosystems and help make a way of life in the midst of dark times. And developing an appropriate spirituality, I suppose, if an individual or group is led in that way (I am).

There is also the idea that the people working together in this way might cross traditional ethnic/racial/political fault lines--thus the idea of a "hybrid culture," which feeds into JMG's discussion of how new ethnicities could easily arise in the future.

That being said, I completely agree that all kinds of end-times, cargo-cult kinds of mythologies will sprout, not to mention nihilistic theologies/ideologies that place a premium on the taking of life. We humans are good at that sort of thing. I choose to employ hope (not optimism) and look for ways to help where I can and to associate with others who are working together to benefit our natural systems, along with learning to live within those natural systems.
(One reason I appreciate this blog community so much!)

peacegarden said...

@ Heather in CA
You can load up on IV supplies, protective gear and a good supply of nutritious food that will keep you and yours going if trips to the grocery store become impossible. Your husband can teach you how to install an IV if he were unable to get home; that is beyond most of us. I hope that will not be necessary for you, but it is good to think ahead.
I second the elderberry syrup as a daily tonic…it’s easy to make and tastes delicious.
Think through all the events that will need to be handled as per the CDC’s VHF booklet, and do your best to gather all you can think of to have on hand.
Have to agree that if this goes bad, many of us will choose to stay home and do what we can…thank you for reminding us that people are not always as presented by our government and media promulgate. Wisdom can be found in many forms…you seem to have a good handle on this thing.

Green blessings,


streamfortyseven said...

Doing some quick MedLine research I came up with this: "Arenaviruses and filoviruses are capable of causing hemorrhagic fever syndrome in humans. Limited therapeutic and/or prophylactic options are available for humans suffering from viral hemorrhagic fever. In this report, we demonstrate that pre-treatment of host cells with the kinase inhibitors genistein and tyrphostin AG1478 leads to inhibition of infection or transduction in cells infected with Ebola virus, Marburg virus, and Lassa virus. In all, the results demonstrate that a kinase inhibitor cocktail consisting of genistein and tyrphostin AG1478 is a broad-spectrum antiviral that may be used as a therapeutic or prophylactic against arenavirus and filovirus hemorrhagic fever."

The study says that genistein alone (as well as tyrphostin AG1478, a pharmaceutical preparation) are effective but the combination has enhanced effectiveness due to a synergistic effect.

It turns out that genistein is found in fermented soy products, such as miso: "Miso, like other soyfoods, contains high concentration of a potent anti-cancer agent known as genistein. Researches indicate that miso contains 25 times more genistein than other unfermented soyfoods, like soy milk and tofu. As such, miso is beneficial in lowering the risk of cancer, especially breast cancer."

SaintS said...

Thanks JMG

Incidentally, a vibrant direct descendant of Seton's woodcraft movement survives in the UK. It's the Wood Craft Folk', which still retains certain tenets and a view icons/slogans from his era. It's quite strong (20k members). Have a look here if your are interested.

ed boyle said...

I understand that my grandmother's family was just about wiped out by spanish flu. She was one of 7 and alone survived and her parents became deaf. Perhaps I have immunity and perhaps europeans are immune to plague, as they are descendants of survivors. I read something about europeans doing better with aids, something to do with surviving plague.

I am now reading people's history of us by zinn as reccomended by pcr on his blog and the mindless slaughter of indian peoples by all whites and the superior human values and social values of indians are stressed. Nothing changes. Our civilization is sick in a real technical sense. Illness spreads and then dies off or infects everything then everything dies off.

Perhaps a lack of fuels to expand would stop the disease and we could be forced back to nature, without metals as indians lived. They also had civilizational cycles however and all was not perfect.

I was doing a bit of awareness meditation and noticed the wind always present on my skin as I go about my day. We are like fish in water and don't notice air pressure. The more sensitive skin gets as in tingling by tai chi the more one becomes sensitive to atmospheric pressure difference perhaps. The butterfly effect comes to mind. I wave my hand in air and it pushes like a bottle in water to next continent over time, like a meme in internet.

1ab9a86a-8991-11e3-899b-000bcdcb8a73 said...

I know someone here mentioned recently that droplet infection seemed likely in the current outbreak. Not sure if this link was posted ...


Then there was this:


For weeks we've been hearing that Ebola wouldn't spread in the US like it does in Africa, due to better hygiene etc etc.

So in Africa we see teams of guys in spacesuits equipped with chlorine sprays. They spray everything, including themselves, rather a lot.

In Dallas? First they couldn't persuade anyone to do the cleanup. Then (if media reports are accurate) they got a "contractor" whose idea of cleaning up a bunch of ebola vomit is to hit it with high pressure water, thus creating a lovely infectious mist right next to a large apartment building.

(I really thought someone was making that up, but the report persists).

The CDC is in charge of what exactly? They can't even coordinate a single case! Are they pleased with ebola-vomit-blasting?

They seem to be low-balling the infectiousness issue.

Then consider that incoming flights are apparently still permitted from countries whose neighbors are trying to quarantine off ...

It hit me just now that I've seen this kind of epic fiddling-while-Rome-burns before. Hurricane Katrina. This is what it was like watching that unfold. But obviously this is in another risk league entirely.

What does this all add up to? The only thing I'm left with is that the options for serious action will disrupt a lot of business-as-usual. Airlines would be instant casualties and plenty more to follow. They'll be kaput anyway but it will take a little longer if we all just pretend.

Very hard to keep up a "growth" or "recovery" narrative in the face of that. So it seems to me that what "they" are doing is defending the mountains of abstract value locked up in the "economy" against the all too concrete reality of a plague.

So we have a collision between the abstract and the concrete. Or more realistically, a collision between the abstract and the wet, squishy reality of nature.

If the elites wanted a better way to exhibit their senility to all and sundry, they'd have a hard time beating what they're doing right now.

Jason Heppenstall said...

@ Ice Torch "As for ebola, well, climate change will increase the incidence of lots of diseases. Last summer I was astounded to find a mosquito in my London living room, and again in my bedroom this summer. This is not supposed to happen in England."

I'm mildly astonished by that comment. Mosquitos are widespread throughout the UK and always have been.

Mosquitos with malaria ... well, that would be a different matter.

latheChuck said...

Re: ham radio communications. I'm an active member of our Amateur Radio Emergency Service group in Prince George's County, MD. In fact, I'll be activating a ham radio station in a local hospital tomorrow morning, though not in either of the local hospitals with "suspect Ebola cases". But I'll be wearing gloves from the car to the radio station, and carrying disinfecting wipes anyway. One of our "emergency scenarios" is to provide backup communications to the local health system in the event that some event overwhelms conventional means of communications.

Our ARES group has a monthly "net" (on-air meeting) which all amateurs are welcome to join. We usually use 3820 kHz, LSB, at 7:30 PM Eastern Time, on the Wednesday following the third Monday of each month. Though we're focused on Maryland, stations as far away as Georgia, Ohio, and New York may be able to check in.

Regarding home-treatment, this is from the Washington Post:

One speaker struck an especially optimistic note: Melvin Korkor is a Liberian doctor who contracted Ebola while working alongside an infected nurse. He was given a one-in-10 chance of survival. Kokor quarantined himself, forced himself to eat and took solace in prayer. “I said to myself I was going to make it,” Korkor has said.

Unfortunately, there's no information on WHAT he ate, or the nature of his prayers.
I have NPR news on at the moment, and just heard this crucial bit of analysis: "confident shoppers are all-important as the holidays approach".

DeAnander said...

I wonder how long you'd have to hide (in your house, in a cave, out on a boat, up a tree or wherever) for the wave of Ebola to pass by. A month? Two? Some people hid from the Black Death and survived, at least one or two rounds of it (it kept coming back, you see)... obscurity really can be security sometimes. If your community locked itself down, voluntarily, could you keep, say, a small village safe? But that could mean coldly ignoring the suffering of travellers/incomers dying right outside your door, etc -- a tremendous cost in self-respect and moral standing.

Adrian Ayres Fisher said...

Hi Tracy,
Greetings from the Illinois tallgrass prairie region! You make excellent points re bison and the complexities of reintroduction. Chris Helzer's blogpost you linked really does a good analysis of management issues. I read his blog often.

Interestingly, Helzer doesn't discuss the different physical grazing methods of the two species or differences in hoof anatomy, but perhaps this is obviated by the different habitat preferences and the general effects of overstocking. Too many grazers in too small a space will have a negative effect on the plant life, no matter what the species. (Deer are a problem in the forest preserve areas I help maintain.)

At Nachusa Grasslands in Illinois, one big hurdle that has had to be overcome for bison reintroduction is the building of a special corral for inoculation against brucellosis, a controversial subject in itself.

I guess when a native wild species is reintroduced or even simply encouraged there will always be complex issues, controversies and difficulties. My area of knowledge really is more native plants than animals; you'd be amazed at the controversy and even legal battles sparked by gardeners who plant wild native plants in their yards or what happens when groups want to plant prairie grasses instead of turfgrass in a public area. This is starting to change, thank goodness, though slowly.

I think the social, political and cultural issues surrounding reintroduction are as thorny as the physical and monetary issues. Around here, people are having to learn to live with the fact that coyotes are a presence; there have been incidents involving small dogs--but the answer is not to exterminate the coyotes (even if we could, which is highly doubtful). There are camps--coyotes ok and coyotes evil; it just depends on how people view ecosystems and the human place therein, I guess, and also how well they understand how ecosystems function--which you clearly do--no criticism implied!

Are you familiar with the rewilding going on in the Netherlands and other parts of Europe?

jonathan said...

the buffalo commons concept runs back to at least 1987 with the publication of "the great plains; from dust to dust" (popper and popper). it is a brilliant idea now coming to fruition. it is a perfect example of m. gandhi's dictum: first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you and then you win.

as to ebola, i suspect that the u.s. government would not have purchased 160,000 virus resistant hazard suits if the situation was not worse than we are being told.

Adrian Ayres Fisher said...

To everyone commenting about Ebola and home preparedness: Thanks. There is much food for thought, and the comments and resources are more useful than what I'm finding elsewhere. I think I'll start a discussion with an EMT of my acquaintance and see what he has to say.

Tony Rantala said...

I was cursing out loud reading about ebola.

I found this some time ago:


It seems that estrogen antagonists might be an effective treatment to ebola, which makes sense since ebola appears have something to do with estrogen and/or nitric oxide.

Amiodarone might also work, but I did not find any animal studies on the subject.

I also wanted to ask the Archdruid if this is actual magic :

Some horrifyingly racist people have been making sacrifices of blood, semen and energy to ebola, and it seems that some Africans have reacted by accusing aid workers. Which is not suprising considering the history. I don't really believe in magic, but reality does not seem to care what I believe in.

donalfagan said...

Ebola suspected at Howard Univ Hospital DC and Shady Grove Hospital MD.

John Michael Greer said...

DeAnander, of course. Most human beings don't make decisions on a rational basis; they decide based on their feelings, and then come up with rationalizations to justify those feelings. The visceral hatred of wildness is one such feeling, and it was very deeply rooted in American culture in the 19th century.

Janet, I actually prefer the first edition of Buhner's herbal antibiotics book, as it concentrates more on commonly available herbs and less on exotics. Still, whatever works for you!

Glenn, of course it was -- thanks for catching that.

DeAnander, and that's been being predicted now for decades. Not that anyone was listening...

Edward, good. Also spot on -- all I asked was the month and year, after all.

Bogatyr, every photo I've seen of people doing much of anything around that apartment has had a noticeable shortage of protective gear. Oh well, I don't suppose we'll miss Dallas much.

Beneath, true -- and of course it's equally true that complicated data processing systems also provide people with a galaxy of additional excuses for their own incompetence.

Zachary, thank you!

Don, of course. The Sudanese strain of the virus pops up every so often; like most of the eastern African strains, it's apparently less transmissible than the West African strain. The question is which strain is involved in this outbreak. As I mentioned in my post, it might be an ordinary outbreak of the local strain; if it's not -- if the West African strain has already spread along the old Sahel trade routes -- we are much closer to a global pandemic than most people realize.

Kutamun, zoologists are very worried that it may wipe out the gorilla -- they've had an epidemic of it as well. It seems to be harmless to fruit bats and wild pigs, but not to primates.

Ice Torch, I hadn't heard that the mainstream media has noticed me -- one clumsy negative review in one financial blog, I think, doesn't quite count. If they ever do, it'll be entertaining.

Charles Justice said...

John, your argument is misleading on this point: Ebola is only a problem with failed states and virtually non-existent public health systems. It's out of control in three West-African countries, all of which share the above-mentioned conditions.

Many countries in the world have strong enough governments and public health systems to control this disease. Nigeria, a huge neighbouring country had some cases, but quickly isolated them. If anything, this should be pretty good evidence that strong central governments and public services are vital for our survival.

John Michael Greer said...

Phil, many thanks for the links. That site should be useful. And yes, it's getting very real indeed.

Donalfagan, every time somebody loudly insists that an Ebola epidemic can't get going here in the US, that makes it more likely that an Ebola epidemic gets going here in the US. Complacency is the worst risk factor of all.

Eric, well, we'll see! For what it's worth, I don't expect the internet to go down as a result of this crisis, even if we get a full-blown epidemic here in the US. That possibility lies further off, I'd say.

RPC, so noted!

Crow, how very cheery. Ahem. ;-)

Raymond, exactly. That's why I put the upper end possibility around 2 to 3 billion deaths. There will be survivors; it's just by no means certain that all of us will be among them.

Tracy, of course there would be problems. Once a trophic cascade gets set in motion, it's hard to guess what consequences would follow. I have a wholly emotional attachment to buffalo, and the story made a good anchor for the overall theme of the post, is all.

Whomever, it's refreshing to hear someone in authority admit that. Perhaps the illusion of omnipotence is finally wearing off.

DM, true enough.

Mr. Geronimo, I know boldo is much used for that by herbalists here as well, so your grandmother may have been on to something. ;-)

Adrian, fascinating. I wasn't familiar with the Anishinaabe prophecy. Going back and picking up bundles is most of what I do these days!

Stream, good heavens. Okay, that's good to know -- given that miso soup is a common item of diet in my house!

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