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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Michelle said...

To Brian Kaller: I raise meat rabbits, and am also Scoutmaster of my sons' Boy Scout troop. (a fine thing, in my opinion, that none of the Dads would do the job, so another Mom and I had to take it on... I feel singularly unqualified, and not just for reasons of plumbing) For one of our winter camping trips in March, I took several (live) rabbits to the campsite and taught the boys how to turn them into stew. They are STILL talking about that!

Heard on NPR news this evening (paraphrase): "People are too pessimistic in the US. The economy is recovering and will keep getting better. People are just pessimistic because of the lack of leadership from Washington."

To the person(s) who linked the Boston Globe article about rising electricity prices in New England last week: Thank you. I have printed off your comment and posted it on my refrigerator, and have started trying to impress its urgency upon my four children. We do have solar panels, but that isn't enough to cover all of our needs - plus we're grid-tied.

To JMG: I was talking to my local librarian last weekend, recommending the DVD "Blind Spot," and she jumped up from her desk and said, 'oh, you'll want to read this.' She came back with your "Not the Future We Ordered"! I now have it checked out and lo! my next-door neighbors' griping about the "unbearable odor of my rabbits" sure sounds a lot like the scapegoating you mention early on.... {n.b. my rabbits to NOT stink. But then again, neither do they smell of bleach or Glade plug-ins, which seems to be what Mr and Mrs Next Door think the world should smell like. I don't get to gripe to the health department about the stench of their (nightly) dryer exhaust, full of petroleum-based perfumes}

John Michael Greer said...

SaintS, glad to hear they're still going. Thanks for the info!

Ed, nothing human is ever perfect. Why would people in the future do without metals, by the way, when there are so many millions of tons of it free for the taking in the ruined cities of the Old Ones?

1ab, exactly. The clownish way in which this whole business is being handled is the reverse of comforting.

Lathechuck, one useful takeaway is that it's possible to survive Ebola, and that there are things each of us can do to tilt the odds in our favor. As for those confident shoppers, I wonder how confident they'll be when the fever hits...

DeAnander, that's almost impossible to say. It depends on how long new cases keep appearing in your locality -- and I don't know of a good model for predicting that.

Jonathan, yes, those haz-mat suits are on my mind as well.

Adrian, please let us know what your EMT friend has to say!

Tony, good. You don't have to believe in magic if magic believes in you. ;-) More seriously, magic is the art and science of causing change in consciousness in accordance with will. The Ebola-chan business is a nastily effective little tool for causing changes in consciousness, and not helpful ones, either.

Donalfagan, yes, I just heard.

Charles, I noted in my post that it's entirely possible that some countries will be able to marshal the resources necessary to stop an epidemic on their own territory long enough for a vaccine to be developed and deployed. It remains to be seen whether the US is one of those countries, but that's a secondary issue. The point I'd make is that a very large number of Third World countries are failed or semi-failed states with minimal health care systems, and if Ebola is allowed to spread outside its current hot zone into those other failed states, a huge number of people are going to die.

The Nigerian case is misleading, as it involved people who were wealthy enough to travel by plane and get access to Western-style health care, and both of those factors brought the situation to the attention of the government. The mode of transmission that matters, rather, is among the rural poor, especially in the northern half of the country where civil war with Boko Haram has plunged much of the countryside into chaos. That's what needs to be watched, and odds are it won't be detected soon enough to matter.

Dwig said...

John Michael, maybe it's something to do with having a subject "right outside the window", or the romance of the Buffalo Wind, but I especially enjoyed the rather lyrical tone of this week's post.

Now, some thoughts triggered by the confluence of pandemics, Indians, buffalo, and passenger pigeons. (I haven't read all 183 comments -- so far -- so I apologize if I'm repeating something.)

First, for those who enjoy indulging in alternate histories, imagine how the contact between the indigenous Americans and Europeans starting in the late 15th century might have played out if the diseases introduced by the Europeans had been only a mild annoyance to the natives, and thus the Europeans had to deal with thriving populations and well-established civilizations.

Back to our current reality, but keeping the longer historical focus: Charles C. Mann, in the book 1491, points out:

Until Columbus, Indians were a keystone species in most of the hemisphere. Annually burning undergrowth, clearing and replanting forests, building canals and raising fields, hunting bison and netting salmon, growing maize, manioc, and the Eastern Agricultural Complex. ... But all of these efforts required close, continual oversight. In the sixteenth century, epidemics removed the boss.

American landscapes after 1492 were emptied ... Suddenly deregulated , ecosystems shook and sloshed ... The forest that the first New England colonists thought was primeval and enduring was actually in the midst of violent change and demographic collapse. So catastrophic and irrevocable were the changes that it's tempting to think that almost nothing survived from the past. This is wrong; landscape and people remain, though greatly altered. And they have lessons to heed, both about the earth on which we all live, and about the mental frames we bring to it.

(Actually, Brian Cady beat me to referencing this book -- thanks, Brian.)

Pinku, thanks for the passenger pigeon reference. Mann also gives an interesting account of their nature and fate. Before the epidemics, the pigeon and the people were competitors for many of the same resources, so the people ensured that they never got too numerous (think of rats with wings -- my image, not Mann's). So, the vast throngs of pigeons that the "new bosses" encountered were the natural result of the lifting of an ecological constraint.

On another topic: some of the comments have mentioned growing populations of Native Americans in the Midwest, and generally a slow recovery of their culture and identity (not exactly as it was, of course). In my area, the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, the local tribes have been quietly establishing a modest presence. It may be, when the population of us "newcomers" has declined far enough, the Tongva, Chumash, and Tataviam will inherit what we perforce abandoned. May they take better care of it than we have!

Yet another topic, on Great Plains agriculture: Janine Benyus, in her book "Biomimicry" has a chapter on "growing food like a prairie".

(The captcha number is 747 -- hmmm.)

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

JMG noted that
"… complicated data processing systems also provide people with a galaxy of additional excuses for their own incompetence."

Well, we need a laugh, so I'll just point out that this phenomenon is also known as "computer says no":

Michelle said...

To Unknown Deborah: Girl Scout books up to about the end of WWII also have some excellent information on setting up home nursing situations. Not every edition is fabulous, but I think they all address it. Once you get into the 1960s' versions, though, they stop being so practical. (yes, I lead a Girl Scout troop, too... and we do a LOT of our projects out of the old Girl Guides. I think the new badges {note: NOT 'Merit Badges,' lest anyone not feel meritorious?} are obnoxiously fluffy)

Josh Jacobs said...

With an R0 of less than 2, and being contagious only when symptomatic, the likelihood of the whole world population (much less 2 to 3 billion) is extremely unlikely.

Yes, it is going to affect vulnerable populations in countries with the lack of sanitation and access to health care...which potentially includes some sectors in the so-called "Developed world". However, the grim hyperbole portrayed will not happen.

SLClaire said...

I also thank everyone who has posted info and ideas on how to respond to Ebola hitting home. It's helping me to calm down and put together plans of herbs, foods, and so forth that we can use and that I can offer as suggestions to anyone who asks me.

I'll make some suggestions too: if you are looking for a very good basic book on preparing herbs, the one I use is Making Plant Medicine by Richo Cech. He tells you how to do it both without making exact measurements and how to make preparations using simple math and cheap glassware (a graduated cylinder) so you can make preparations of fairly well known strength. He also offers dosage info for many common herbs. My copy is well used. Buhner's books are excellent for the details on each of the herbs he profiles, but in my opinion not as helpful on making preparations, where Cech's book shines.

If you want to use the more exact method you can buy graduated cylinders of various sizes from American Science and Surplus at Everything else you'd want is easily obtainable if you don't already have it.

Consider, too, measures to keep your immunity level up to at least slightly increase the chance that you won't get Ebola (or other communicable diseases). Getting enough sleep, walking or similar kinds of physical activity, doing something you enjoy whenever you can, and similar things may help with this. Look into vitamins, minerals, and/or herbs along this line that you can use every day.

Yesterday I learned that a friend from the dulcimer club my husband and I belong to died of West Nile virus. That's the third person I know who has died in the last month. Puts me in mind of general demographic decline as you spoke of some weeks back. Not that Ebola won't overshadow other diseases in the near term, but as others have said, there are plenty of diseases out there and they will all prosper with declines in public health measures.

latheChuck said...

Here's another math problem. If we take as given that the US will be saturated with Ebola cases along with the rest of the world, and subject to the same doubling rate, then how many active cases must we have TODAY to stay on track?

Quick solution: if the world-wide progression is from 7000 cases to 7 billion cases (a million-fold), then to get to 350 million (here) means we need to have 350 current cases (here). Whether that sounds like a lot or a little is a matter of opinion.

The funny thing about exponential growth functions is that, no matter where you are on the curve, it looks like something dramatic is just about to happen. That is, just as it did five doublings ago, the very next interval will grow as much as all prior intervals combined! Compared to WHATEVER the current level is, history looks benign, and the future catastrophic. That's just the nature of exponentials.

latheChuck said...

Guess where I found THIS note of caution regarding fracking?

"The droughts caused by climate volatility have lowered water tables in parts of the U.S., so fracking may soon be profitable only where there's greater access to water, such as in the Northeast," says Wolfe.

The U.S. may have to choose wisely where it drills, says Christopher Wolfe, CIO, Portfolio Solutions, Private Banking and Investment Group & Institutional at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management.

This was in a Merrill Lynch investment newsletter. I guess they're not totally worthless cheerleaders for BAU, after all.

Kevin said...

wotfigo: There are no buffalo in Australia, but I smell the Buffalo Wind every day.
I live deep in the jungle of the coastal ranges on 300 acres of thick uncleared forest. I feel and smell the earth, the grass & the trees every day. The trees talk, the birds call out, the stars & moon at night are beyond spectacular. I am off grid. The Peace & Harmony & Beauty are captivating. A lostt world.
And on occasion, when I go to the City 3 hours away, I see traffic jams, new horror suburbs, bulldozers, screaching noise, shopping malls, acres of concrete & harried angry people.
And I see Societies Collapse right there in front of me in the lost soles in the economic madness of the city. The drugs, the alcohol, the crime, the gangs, the fear, the suicides.
They do not know the Buffalo Wind. They have lost their attachment to the natural world. They are already fully in the Collapse of their Civilization.
JMG, I have read you for years. This is my first, & possibly my last comment. I know exactly where you are coming from

William Church said...

I would love to see the shaggies make a comeback. I have dreamt of what seeing the buffalo migration in person must have been like.

Alas, I think it's a long shot.

The great depression almost put even the most prolific game animals extinct. I'm only in my mid 40s and can remember as a kid that whitetail deer just plain did not exist around our part of the country. Good hunters would travel hours to hunt and might see 4 or 5 legal deer in their lifetimes.

Combine a large, armed, hungry group of people with a group of large tasty game animals. Take away the regulatory protection hunters have paid for? Leave these folks unsupervised for a long protracted economic decline? A century or two?

Be lucky to have a breeding population of possums left, let alone deer, elk, buffs, etc. I wish it weren't so.

But maybe I'm wrong. I hope so.


patriciaormsby said...

JMG, it looks like a dam has burst, and your site is being flooded with comments. This is a topic of real concern to anyone with his or her eyes open. So at the risk of increasing your weekly task of reading and replying to comments, I want to share what I know about alternative strategies. I would urge everyone to look into this as soon as possible, because once a state of emergency is declared, I would expect alternative information to become unavailable.
And you are to be praised for your caution in addressing this. People are already under attack for proposing alternative strategies.
There are reports that nano-silver solution was effective in vitro against ebola virus. In vivo, not known, but worth a try. If nano-silver is not available (a distinct possibility), colloidal silver can be made at home. Again, worth a try.
Vitamin C megadoses, IV in particular, look hopeful, and I've read (but not confirmed) that ebola kills by vitamin C depletion.
As far as alternative health sites go, I have been most favorably impressed by Dr. Mercola. He has not weighed in on this ebola outbreak yet. He is cautious about vetting the information he presents. My husband and I visited his clinic about ten years ago, and our health has improved dramatically since. I would refer to his site for information on immunity, liver and kidneys. He himself has dealt with kidney issues, apparently due to mercury poisoning during amalgam removal.
I use dandelion root tea regularly for my liver. Dandelions are everywhere, and every bit as good as milk thistle.
I have not tried couch grass, but for kidney disease, I know that is recommended.
The Emotional Freedom Technique is another powerful tool. I have eliminated my use of painkillers entirely for the past ten years.
Regarding home treatment, I downloaded a copy of "Where There is No Doctor" (not sure that is exact), but I would also seriously look into isolation techniques, now, while the information is available.

charlie sheldon said...

After 13 years of strident public panic about terrorists, drugs, global warming vaccines, the list seems endless, we have become a nation and perhaps world conditioned to a constant state of fear. This does not bode well for reason, steadiness, and calm in the face of uncertainty. It used to be our leaders, some of them anyway, displayed those character traits- resolve, steadfastness, thought. Now after nearly a generation of one world-ending panic after another who will listen to reason?
My concern is not bout ebola cases felling millions of Americans. I think actually we will be able to contain this once people realize we must. The bigger danger is much more immediate. At what point does the system begin to shut down through fear and raising the moat? Much sooner than we all think, I fear. If cases appear in India and Europe and China and Brazil, even if one or two, suddenly flights are empty, borders are closed, materials and food left on the docks. This can all happen way before any epidemic gets out of control. Parents will not send their kids to schools, nobody will ride the bus, public meetings will cease, stores will become deserts, empty. People will not go to football games, sports events, perhaps even churches. And by the time everyone realizes that this disease like SARS and others is not the world ending scourge everyone offered, it will be too late. The scourge will have already happened.

Random Man said...

With Ebola I can't help but be reminded of the spread of HIV. Of course there are important differences, but let me point out the similarities, even if they not yet apparent. Origin Africa. Quick spread from isolated communities to worldwide. Initial confusion and containment poor. Political correctness making it worse. And then people and doctors, scientists catch on. And ultimately, a treatment coming from the pharmaceutical companies at great expense, although prevention is still low cost (hiv: safe sex; ebola: hygiene and isolation).

I just don't know how many more of these our civilization can take. The healthcare system is taxed to breaking point with the chronically ill and elderly.

Tracy Glomski said...

Hi Adrian,

Greetings back at'cha from the mixed-grass prairies of the rainwater basin of South-Central Nebraska. I love the Illinois tallgrass prairies, and I regret that I don't get to explore those more often. Usually my husband and I are passing through by train on our way to Michigan when we're in your part of the country.

You and I on the same page with all of your comments, I think. I don't work directly with livestock myself (much less with wild bison)—I'm simply fortunate to have connections with a few people who do. I'm so glad to hear that you read and enjoy Chris Helzer's blog. He's every bit as personable in face-to-face conversations, wearing his considerable expertise and talents lightly.

I wish I could say I'd be amazed at the controversies generated by planting natives, but since the city government here has served us with a couple of notices over the years, concerning the "weeds" in our yard, I'm already intimately familiar with that. ;-)

I'm not familiar with the rewilding in the Netherlands that you mention, however. If you'd like to talk more about that or anything else, and if you think that conversation might wander off-topic for our gracious host's posts, please feel free to drop a comment (marked not-for-posting, if you like) at my newish blog, As to the Wonder, and I'd be delighted to chat with you further!

Redneck Girl said...

JMG said

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.

I don't think the puma will be the biggest cat down there. Or not for 'long' at any rate. I recall reading not too long ago (within the last year maybe two?) that on the American side of the border a jaguar was caught on a game camera. With people being fewer on the ground jaguars will have a chance to come back again. I don't think a puny little mountain lion will have much choice other than to move over or get out!

To be honest with you, I don't think I'll survive this epidemic. I'm 62 and have no one who could care for me if I get sick. And at my age I don't believe I'd be a high priority. Although I may watch the proceedings from the spirit world on my little Appaloosa gelding I lost a couple of decades back. Riding the Buffalo Wind on him would be a blessing and a privilege! Not to mention joyous!


Grebulocities said...

By the way, I recently read John Kenneth Galbraith's The Great Crash 1929.

I knew ahead of time from you that it contained far more parallels to the 2008 crash than most people would have liked to admit. But I didn't expect that there'd be a chapter titled "In Goldman, Sachs We Trust", several other actors including Lehman Brothers and the National City Bank of New York, a property bubble that fed into the stock bubble, many "new" and "innovative" ways to bundle together securities to create financial products, and so forth.

The last few pages contain comments about how the financial structure of the 1950s is built to be considerably more resilient, how the US has a persistent trade surplus and vastly reduced inequality (as of back then), and so forth. But even under those conditions, he considered speculative bubbles to be at least as threatening to capitalism as Communism would ever be.

But progress has still been made. Back then, the stock ticker couldn't keep up with what was happening and people were making panicked trades based on hours-old data. This time around, automated algorithms make trades with millisecond speeds, causing the occasional flash crash along with the real crashes. If that isn't progress, I don't know what is.

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

Another crisis, another shopping opportunity. There's a good herb store within walking distance of my place. Today I bought Herbal Antibiotics and Herbal Antivirals, housemade elderflower syrup, zinc tablets and an herbal tea mixture to strengthen the immune system. (I don't have space to grow many herbs or places to gather most of them.)

I've read part of the antiviral book and skimmed the rest. Things I've learned so far:

Stephen Buhner is a very good writer, well organized, direct and clear about his sources. He is also a punster, sarcastic, and funny. Chapter Six has a two page rant about taxonomy that had me laughing out loud repeatedly.

The first chapter contains a long scientific explanation about how viruses propagate. I had an odd double reaction to this. I tried to read with detachment, emulating Buhner's respect for viruses and their ingenuity at overcoming obstacles. OTOH, from a more personal point of view it's a horror movie. I learned that there are DNA viruses and RNA viruses. RNA viruses mutate more rapidly.

Chapter Two has clinical details of the progression of symptoms in Spanish Influenza. I had thought it was just a more severe kind of flu. Turns out people soaked sheets with blood. I also didn't know that one third! of everyone on earth caught it (a much smaller number got very ill).

When one gets into the chapters on remedies and prevention, things get cheerier.

Wikipedia says Ebola is an RNA virus. I draw three conclusions from that. First, as it spreads, new strains will develop, and it won't be possible to create vaccines for all the strains. Second, natural selection favors mutation in two directions: easier transmission to new hosts and reduced lethality to those hosts (so they will have more opportunities to pass the virus on). When both those tendencies are pushed far enough you get the common cold, which you can catch from touching a dry doorknob, but nearly everyone recovers from.

Those are general trends and the way any given virus mutates in a short period of time isn't predictable. So I believe the course of this epidemic is not predictable. Just as medium sized earthquakes teach engineers how to build more earthquake resistant structures, the good that might come out of this would be realistic but not utterly destructive testing of both the public health system of the entire world, and the ability of human beings to keep calm and carry on.

Captcha 1900

goedeck said...

The ebola epidemic and its potential for disruption of the economy brought to mind the Panic of 1873, where I recall reading that one of the contributing factors to economic slowdown was a national outbreak of hoof and mouth disease; found this:
" In the 1870s, an immense horse flu outbreak swept across North America. City by city and town by town, horses got sick and perhaps five percent of them died. Half of Boston burned down during the outbreak, because there were no horses to pull the pump wagons. In the West, the U.S. Cavalry was fighting the Apaches on foot because all the horses were sick... The horse flu outbreak pulled the rug out from under the economy.""

Marcello said...

"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."

It has become patently clear that such measures are going to be undertaken far too late to make a positive difference. The following picture is worth a thousands of words:

We are in the hands of the Gods now

Taraxacum said...

I also second Buhner's "Herbal Antibiotics". I could list the antivirals he gives in the book, but you really should get the book and learn how to use them properly. It's especially critical that most people who attempt to use herbs underestimate the dose on an order of magnitude, when it comes to acute illness of any kind. At this point it is impossible to know just what will work. We can only speculate.

My speculative approach that I would use if I were to come down with the disease, would consist of a cocktail of at least three of the antivirals in Buhner's book, of which I already have several quarts prepared, as the primary approach. Say, elder, chinese skullcap, and lomatium, for example. Elderberry syrup is a good preventative. A tablespoon taken daily is something that some claim will ward off the flu. It may help with ebola as well. It's not at all considered curative though. Elder flowers, and perhaps leaves, bark and root, may carry curative properties not contained in the berries. The two have quite different biochemical profiles.

In addition to direct antivirals, I would reach for supportive herbs. Echinacea is excellent. It's one people tend to dramatically underdose. The dosage given on a bottle of echinacea tincture is likely to accomplish exactly nothing at all. I prefer it by the ounce, hourly, when fighting off a bug. You might as well toss out your capsules as well, you don't even know what's in those things. The other supportive herb that jumps out at me is licorice. Licorice is synergistic with a number of herbs that have antiviral properties. It is seen as an adrenal tonic, and ebola is believed to target the adrenal system. In addition, it is known to have hypertensive properties in some people. This is typically considered a harmful side effect, but when hypervolemic shock is a risk, it could potentially be a good thing.

Milk thistle is the most broadly liver-protecting herb I am aware of, with effects well verified scientifically. It is best consumed in a whole/crushed or encapsulated form. The extract is considered by some to be worthless.

Blood volume balancing herbs and antihemorrhagics come to mind as a possibility. Yarrow is viewed as an herb that balances bloodflow and blood volume, stems hemorrhage, and is a diaphoretic, useful in fighting viral infections that are fever-producing. Yarrow can be consumed safely in copious amounts. If I had ebola I would drink several quarts of hot yarrow and elderflower tea a day. Shepherd's purse tincture and cayenne powder, tea or tincture come to mind as strong antihemorrhagics that I would also attempt to use in small, supportive doses.

It isn't widely known, but if all else fails, water can be absorbed through the skin. I'm not sure just how much you take in that way, but for someone soaking an a warm bathtub, given enough time, it can be enough to matter. Rectal injections, while distasteful for most to think about, are also very effective in getting fluid aborbed quickly and directly into the bloodstream. Plain water, electrolyte solutions, and also herbal teas.

These are just speculations. I have no idea if any of this is any good, and I welcome criticism or suggestions. It's simply where I would start if I were looking for answers.

Phil Harris said...

Plague was a regular visitor to the British Isles, long after the Black Death. The huge late mediaeval London was still fast growing in 18th and 19th C and seems to have been an epicentre for repeated waves. (London grew from c. 80,000 to over 700,000 inhabitants between 1550 and 1750.) Rural areas were not spared from plague, however, and we have numerous examples of ‘plague villages’, abandoned, with the archaeology still in the ground.

There is one village apparently of this kind close to where I live. Legends of others suggest examples (Eyam in Derbyshire) of heroic self-isolation, not so much to avoid plague but in an attempt not to pass it on.

South from here is a village abandoned after in this case a cholera outbreak in 1847 Recently by choice the intellectual father of our post-war welfare state ennobled as Lord Beveridge is buried here with his wife. As the Church link above puts it - “Rarely is there anything less than a significant wind here and rain falls horizontally on most occasions.” But I can personally verify it is a very quiet place.

It all seems but a breath away. I remember well my Auntie Jenny an orphan child of a young couple died from Spanish Flu 1917 – 1919, who was brought up as young step-sister to my mother.

So it goes

Cherokee Organics said...


Seems a bit unlikely! However, there is actually a remote possibility that such an event may occur with the recently extinct Tasmanian Tiger and it would be a good thing if it is successful.

Hy Kylie,

Spot on! A tidy bit of understanding of our place in this environment.



Dagnarus said...

I recently came across this article from the beginning of September.

"Travel restrictions could worsen Ebola crisis: experts"

The rationale for this statement.

"If we impose an aerial quarantine on these countries, we undermine their fight against the epidemic: the rotation of foreign medical staff and distribution of supplies, already inadequate, will become even more difficult,"

To my mind this reads as, either we are too cheap/underfunded to organize private flights for medical staff. That said it could also be that their is some fair that restricting travel with west Africa will lead to a slowdown in the economy.

Some other choice quotes from the article.

"Even in the rare event of an exported infection, provided countries know how to identify a possible infection, then respond appropriately, the risk of wider infection ... is low."

"Closing the borders is like closing your eyes," said Michael Kinzer of the US-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who led a recent surveillance and advisory Ebola mission to Guinea. "It makes more sense for countries to spend their money and energy on preparing their health systems to recognise an Ebola case and respond correctly ... so that the virus does not spread."

Well it looks like we will get to see whether they are right or not, I guess. Hopefully they are, taking into account recent events I doubt it.

Degringolade said...

John Michael:

I must admit, I like your flavor of your prose much better than I like the news you bring. Not that I disagree with you. I just don't particularly like it.

I just wanted to be one of those "correctors" that plague all blogs.

Now you posit a twenty-day doubling rate for Ebola. At the risk of sounding pedantic, per the latest data from Science, August 28, 2014

The doubling rate appears to approximately 35 days. So, most folks would say to themselves "whew, that bought us some time."

Well buckaroos, sorry 'bout that.

As copiously proved by adherents hunched over their Casio calculators in suburban kitchens across America, the date that our buddy Mr. Marburg takes 1,000,000,000 of our family to their long home is July 20th, 2015

Exponential functions are tricky. I deal with them better than most, when I saw the doubling rate assumption nearly doubling, I did do a little “whew” myself.

But when you plug the numbers into merciless Mr. Excel Spreadsheet, the truth is, they really don’t buy you much. a thirty-five day doubling time takes you out to December 17th. One hundred and fifty days.

Oh well

(BTW) I posted also posted this on my blog (

as a shameless plug to draw some visitors to a sadly disused corner of the internet.

Shane Wilson said...

Where do you think the cattle/bison balance will be struck in the deindustrial future? Certainly, cattle are here in North America to stay, yet bison are native and geared to the plains. What sort of ecosystem/balance do you see in the future?
Regarding the patient in Dallas getting sent home, we have an epidemic of unthinking ignorance that permeates everything in the U.S. today. My guess is that what's behind the lapse. My guess is that the triage nurse was just another soulless underpaid zombie on autopilot, stressed out, with a barely contained rage simmering beneath the surface, of a kind that is all too common in most every American workplace nowadays. I see it daily, myself. My guess is that sort of ignorance was behind the lapse of judgement.

Shining Hector said...

Thanks for the preparation advice JMG, I'm working on it but probably not fast enough. It's too easy to get fatalistic when I think of all the times I correctly deduced I would be getting sick in 3-5 days during a patient encounter.

Lots of interesting stuff in this thread. Thanks to Tony for the article about Clomid, that was astonishing, I'm surprised it hasn't been publicized more. Were I a suspicious man, I might wonder if that has something to do with it being a 50-year old drug, orally administered, easily tolerated, and fairly cheap. I kinda facepalmed about the miracle Zmapp hoopla at the time and now it's even more laughable. Yeah, we get a serious hemorrhagic fever outbreak and the nurses/doctors that actually do show up for work are going to be able to hook up thousands per city to IVIG drips and monitor them, dream on guys. And that's if they can actually manufacture enough, which is by no means assured. Meanwhile an entirely practical existing drug with a known side-effect profile that by the way would be 100x easier to manufacture and have production ramped up right now is basically ignored. Yep, sounds like modern medicine in action.

Moshe Braner said...

Regarding the changes that occurred between the first contacts between Europeans and Native Americans, and the landscape that European settlers later thought was there all along: I don't remember the source for this idea, but I've read a claim that the forests of N America were much less extensive, until the human population collapsed due to the diseases brought in by the Europeans. Then, the forest regrowth was so vast and rapid, and sucked so much CO2 from the atmosphere, that it caused the "little ice age" which was quite noticable over in the Old World. (And killed the Viking settlers in Greenland.)

Ixtlan said...

Really superb post. Profound and insightful.

One of the key discoveries of this century is that co-operative processes in general seem far more likely to survive than isolated, rampantly selfish entities wherein survival is all about group or team effort.

I'm reminded by a stunning article in Le Monde by Robert Lion called "Doing better with less" the essence of which is:

"Let's stop claiming to dominate nature and the world; let's stop making possession a superior end. Let's put our cherished deviancies, such as the manufacture of desire and its bulimic satisfaction, back in their place. Humanity's progress must be situated on the side of being rather than of having."

...and for our so called leaders;

"Let us dream: A politician takes the side of talking to us about the world as it is, as it risks becoming; he or she forecasts not sweat and tears, but difficult tomorrows; she or he proposes that we talk about it, as responsible citizens, and allows us to perceive robust paths along which to advance, with a smile, towards the era of less ... A less that will consequently take on the character of better." Robert Lion, France, circa 2006

onething said...

I just lost my internet for a couple of days, so I have not caught up on the comments, but I thought I would let everyone know that I got not one response from the emails I sent, or the contact information I left.

Phil, The body seems to shed ebola virus from any possible fluid, although I am quite curious as to whether the urine will contain dead virus - but yes, it is known that men who recover will have infected semen for some time, and as many here probably know, that is because the lifecycle of sperm is about three months.

Crow and sheep-

Thank you! I needed that.

Renaissance Man said...

Love that artwork. I bet they didn't think it was a real probability, though.
As for Ebola, if ever there was a reason to have an agency like Homeland Security in place, this would be it...and yet it appears to be conspicuously MIA.

Ing said...

The comments have given me much to think about herbally and like others I find myself putting together a protocol for my family should Ebola come close to home. Taraxacum, all we really have is speculation at this point, but we also have a responsibility to ourselves to think about how we'll respond to what's in front of us, so I'm happy to have read your thoughts on the matter as well as those of others. The speculation here is at least informed. Thanks Deborah, for the link to the VHF guide. Along those lines, here is a link to an older Red Cross guide to home hygiene and care of the sick, which I'm also finding useful in terms of planning.

I'm trying to understand how Ebola works in the body so that what I put together is as sound as possible. I would love some help understanding this if anyone here grasps how it functions. It looks like the virus "rides" on the immune system and takes advantage of it, so straight up immune stimulants such as Echinacea might not be indicated. However, it may be wise to support the immune system in other ways with Astragalus and use other gentle herbs such as Red Clover and Cleavers. One area where herbs can really help is in supporting the liver, which will be hit hard by Ebola, so Dandelion root, Burdock root and Milk Thistle seed tinctures.

Taraxacum (the commenter), I would also use Elder as I have it at hand, although would suggest berry and flower together in a syrup or flower on its own in a tincture. The stem and bark are purgative and emetic, so I'd save those for another time. I would not take the root of Elder unless given freely and then I would be hard pressed to use it directly as medicine. Yarrow comes to mind for me, too. I'd probably lean toward Shepherd's Purse before Cayenne just because of how irritating the latter can be. My thinking on this in general has been informed by a podcast by herbalist Sam Coffman wherein he also suggested that Andrographis has been researched specific to Ebola, but I have no experience with this herb and will be reading up on it for the first time tonight. (Podcast can be found here: ... the prepper intro is relatively short). I'll look into Lomatium, too, so thanks for bringing that up.

Astringent berberine containing herbs may be appropriate for the diarrhea. These would include Goldenseal (although over harvested), Barberry or Oregon Grape root.

For hydration, I'd make a strong nettle infusion with a pinch of licorice or on its own to mix with a cold infusion of marshmallow and use that as a base. If it were accepted in small sips, then there would be some much needed nutrition as well as hydration. There is only so much that a person can take in, I think, so I'd work on making concentrated infusions.

I tend to use herbs energetically in drop doses, but in situations like this I agree that larger and quite frequent doses are probably necessary. There isn't much time to experiment.

For now, we're taking care with what we eat, including more fermented foods, taking Elderberry and flower syrup, and bitters—many of which are hepatoprotective. It's good to have a plan and stick to it, but I want my focus to be on our being as healthy as we can now.

Best to you all. I'm grateful for the conversation and the chance to discuss what approaches we each might take.

steve pearson said...

JMG,The image of the buffalo running free through the tall grass prairie is a beautiful one.I hate to be thrower of cold water, but, under most climate change scenarios, your own included, wouldn't much of the current prairie become desert? I suppose the buffalo could shift east as the prairie does.
If the current shopping cart of Ebola & economic crises comes anywhere near its maximum potential, do you feel that could lessen the effects of global warming we will experience , or is the desertification of most of the American west already a fait accompli?
regards, Steve

BoysMom said...

Shane Wilson, I understand that a bison/cattle cross is viable one way and that the offspring are fertile. If wikipedia may be trusted, most wild bison are already part cattle. So perhaps the question is not what sort of balance the two species strike, but rather which traits their descendents will have.

Redneck Girl said...

William Church said...
I would love to see the shaggies make a comeback. I have dreamt of what seeing the buffalo migration in person must have been like.

Alas, I think it's a long shot.

I disagree with you William, true, in the more populated east game populations will decrease a great deal but human population is already decreasing in the US and IMO most of the city people in the east know diddley squat about hunting. As finances decrease so will imported ammunition. Many of those city boys will be crashing through the woods scaring the game to ground for miles around. Plus you've got to remember that without gas most of them won't be going very far. Even given they ride bikes they're only good for fifty miles and seasonally time and temperature is going to be problematic. The learning curve for bow hunting is going to be ugly steep for most of them and where are they going to get their bows, not to mention good arrows. It requires a Good bow AND a Good arrow to make a kill. Without either one and the skill required a kill will be plain dumb luck!

My money is on survival for the wildlife and famine times for the beginners.

BTW, being a bowyer and a fletcher is a future job opportunity for someone. ::hint:: ::hint::

Blogger Kevin said...
wotfigo: There are no buffalo in Australia, but I smell the Buffalo Wind every day.

LOL! Kevin, you're wrong. Horse people and Cattlemen are the same here in the US as in Oz. We have a sport here that's called cow penning and your countrymen have picked it up! One of the premier horse trainers in your nation has imported buffalo to use for training horses in cow penning because cows get burned out fast in training, buffalo don't! You won't have a large enough gene pool to produce the huge herds we'll have but in some areas you'll likely have some big bison to make life interesting, at least for awhile!

That wind is infused with the spirit of the earth and it's pulling on you, on a place in you that most 'civilized' people don't recognize. Its risky to let go and follow it but is there any other way to be truly alive? To open up your heart and soul to the width and breadth of the wild spirit, to become something others don't recognize and are frightened of?

Time to get 'lost' and live people!


Taraxacum said...

@Ing, as well as everyone else who has written here: thank you for your thoughts on the matter. You have given me sound information to think about. I will try to check out the podcast as soon as I can scrape together a block of time.

John Michael Greer said...

Dwig, thank you! I hope the Native peoples make it through the mess that's unfolding.

1ab, funny! Many thanks.

Josh, keep repeating that to yourself. I'm sure you'll find it very comforting.

SLClaire, it's good to remember that Ebola isn't the only microbe that's expanding its range rapidly, and causing increased death, in a world that's gone out of ecological balance. With antibiotics failing due to overuse, and a great many unfamiliar diseases spreading fast, we're basically on our way back to normal: that is, to a situation in which infectious disease is once again a very common cause of death.

LatheChuck, exactly. That's also why nobody gets exponentials intuitively -- it's a learned thing. As for the Merrill Lynch thing -- good heavens. If they're talking in those terms in investment letters, they've basically thrown in the towel.

Kevin, I see the same thing here. I suspect it's a thylacine wind down your way.

Will, my guess is that you're wrong -- as population contraction intersects with decreased access to transport, getting to the targets will be an increasing challenge, and then there's the question of just how heavily armed the Native peoples guarding the buffalo will be. But we'll see.

Patricia, thanks for the suggestions.

Charlie, the panic's also a factor. I hope you're right about the US response; so far it's looking pretty inept.

Random, yes, and that's also a worthwhile point. Most civilizations fall from a death of a thousand cuts, and ours is getting pretty sliced up just now.

Wadulisi, er, the pumas I used to see now and again in Washington State weren't little, not even by jaguar standards. I have no idea whether they'd compete directly, or sort themselves out by preferred habitat, but I'm far from sure the jaguars would always come out ahead.

Grebulocities, thank you. Every time somebody reads that book on my recommendation, and gets the point of it, I feel as though I've contributed ever so slightly to decreasing the total burden of cluelessness in the world!

ed boyle said...

I happened to notice that yesterday was international animal protecion day and half the animals are gone from 30 years ago, we have doubled in numbers. I recall start of AIDS outbreak. It seems to have not done much regardless of 25% rates in Southern Africa. Life goes on, for humans, elephants, primates decimated. Not like buffalo but close. If we keep it up we will be alone with domesticated nimals and plants. Why worry about ebola,"bring it on" I would say. If the future generations are to have a chance something must happen soon. Did you notice the walrus stranding in Alaska? I recall seeing bison there, kept experimentally. We grew up with native Americans along with other minorities. This
did not change our attitudes to middle class ambitions, conceits, US patriotism. It happens all so fast and we naevr knew what we missed.

John Michael Greer said...

Deborah, good. The ability to step back and admire the beauty of something that can kill you is a worthwhile skill to have.

Goedeck, fascinating. I didn't know that.

Marcello, yes, I saw that, and yes, your assessment seems reasonable.

Taraxacum, good. Myself, I'm looking at antivirals that are part of the local ecology -- we've got some useful ones here in the north central Appalachians, including one (Erigeron philadelphus) that also prevents hemorrhaging in the stomach, bowels, and other internal organs. But there's still time to draw up plans.

Phil, it is just a breath away. That's normal. The last seventy-five years aren't.

Cherokee, I'll certainly cheer for the tiger if it gets another run at things.

Dagnarus, I have to admit that these claims about how we can't restrict travel seem stunningly daft to me. It's as though we're rushing on our fate.

Degringolade, I'm sure the figure will vary up and down due to rounding errors, etc. As you say, though, if it's an exponential process, no matter what the doubling rate is, we're in trouble.

Shane, I'm not sufficiently familiar with the different environmental needs of buffalo and cattle to say. The Great Plains have been a depauperate region in terms of megafauna since the end of the last ice age, though, so my guess is that there's ample room for both, and for wild horses as well.

Hector, as a physician, you might be able to do a lot of good, knowing that about Clomid. Just saying...

Moshe, I've seen that also. Much of the carbon went into the Amazon basin, which was thickly settled and farmed before 1492 and turned into impassable jungle after that, but there was a fair amount elsewhere. Depending on how far Ebola gets, we might see a reprieve from global warming along the same lines.

Ixtlan, thank you -- I'm clearly going to want to read more of what M. Lion has to say.

Onething, I wish I could say that I'm surprised. Appalled, yes; surprised, no.

John Michael Greer said...

Renaissance, everybody but the Keystone Kops seems to be out on vacation just now!

Ing, all that sounds very solid.

Steve, of course the buffalo will have to range eastwards as the plains dry out. They used to do so -- how do you think the town of Buffalo, NY got its name?

Ed, when you say "bring it on," are you including in that the possibility that you, personally, will die of it? If you've already grappled with that and accepted the possibility, that's one thing; if you just expect other people to die from it, that's quite another matter.

patriciaormsby said...

Japan has developed an anti-viral drug, which has apparently contributed to the recovery in France of a nun infected with Ebola. Maybe that's already the latest news where you are, but with politics being what it is... It is Favipiravir, developed for the flu, but effective at preventing replication of other RNA viruses, including ebola. It showed 100% efficacy in mice, and is in Phase III clinical trials. Here are details:

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi sgage,

Very amusing! People get lost around here because the tree canopy makes GPS directions unreliable.

You know what though? I always provide them with a map plus explicit easy to follow instructions and 9 times out of 10, they ignore those to listen to the demented computer voices which really have no idea and should possibly keep quiet.

PS: I'll keep a watch out for those dreadful drop bears - you just can never be too careful...



Kutamun said...

Just had an email back from Medwyn Goodall, who was kind enough to reply to my enquiry straight away

"It is an Native American expression from the 1800's. I think it came from the Sioux.
this is pretty close "where there is one white man many are sure to follow". It was the realisation they were going to get swamped and not cope. So it is

Best Wishes

Violet Cabra said...

Like quite a few others I want to thank everyone who's been participating in this discussion, especially about possible ebola homecare.

Reading this blog is helping me get over my immediate aversion to thinking about the likely reality of imminent world pandemic and is helping to prime me towards action.

As mentioned by others ebola seems to attack the kidneys as well as the liver. I would like to make the recommendation for the use of burdock root in the months ahead. Burdock root grows wildly in most of the temperate regions of the United States and it is renown as a kidney tonic, which according to the book in front of me Medical Herbalism by David Hoffman "In general, burdock will move the body towards a state of integration and health," which I imagine (not a herbal practitioner let alone a medical one and can't offer medical advice!) would be good in any case, especially one where you may need every scrap of vitality your body has and where one of the primary causes of death is renal failure.

Over the course of the next week I plan on compiling the info from the discussion of this blog, and other sources, to make an easily readable "ebola survival guide" on my blog so the information can be readily accessible and organized.

Andy Brown said...

I haven't been too inclined to treat Ebola as a pandemic threat - at least for the US. The virus isn't particularly sneaky or wantonly transmissible, and the protocol for stopping its spread is pretty straightforward - isolation and monitoring. But watching the fail parade in Dallas changed my mind about that. It was the official reaction of placing the family under armed guard and confining them for days to an apartment full of infectious materials. It is easy to see this reaction as a foreshadowing of disaster writ small. If infection starts to rage in an immigrant neighborhood or a half dozen neighborhoods, how long would it take until we rolled out the razor wire, wrote them off as lost and let them die in place? And once that spectacle hits the public consciousness, who is going to report their daughter's fever to the authorities? Or admit that they've been in contact with the disease?

If we wanted to turn Ebola from medical curiosity to epidemic this would probably be the shortest route.

I guess the CDC has some competent medical anthropologists on staff, because it was remarkable how abruptly officials changed course. The official in charge removed the family from the apartment, and gave effusive apologies, insisting that “I want this family treated as I would like to see my own family treated,” and purportedly spirited them off to isolation in some luxurious suburban McMansion. It is not in the DNA of Texas politics to hear a top government official speak of dark-skinned immigrants in those tones, so I can only assume that someone in Washington pushed hard to head off the damage that was about to be done to the ability to deal with an outbreak of Ebola.

With one patient, the CDC was able to hold the line against counter-productive official panic. Maybe I should find that reassuring, but I don’t.

Shane Wilson said...

It's amazing how well this post demonstrates your current series of posts. With the Ebola epidemic, we're getting a front row seat to witness the senility of the elites handling this situation as well as institutional incompetence at all levels--the relative fragility of our system to handle stressors. What an amazing real world example!

Shining Hector said...

Good point, I probably could do some good. With a little more research it looks more complicated, though. Clomid probably can't reach the blood concentrations required to suppress Ebola. Some of the chemotherapy agents could... but they're chemotherapy agents. The way medicine is practiced, a humble family doc could probably get by under the radar with off-label prescriptions of a mostly benign fertility drug. Handing out prescriptions for chemotherapy agents for any reason would raise a lot more eyebrows. The cinematic image of the heroic and innovative doctors sticking it to the establishment and saving lives is mostly a myth. It's really one of the most deeply conservative, paint-by-numbers affairs you can imagine. One of the common sayings is, "Never be the first or last doctor to use a treatment." It's for mostly good reasons much of the time, but in this case I imagine the bog-standard ponderous, unimaginative, patent-generating approach the Powers That Be seem to taking is going to fall woefully short.

I dunno, I'll have to look into it more. As usual, carping about a bad situation is infinitely easier than actually doing something about it. Ugh, I might even have to collaborate with other doctors rather than sit around musing about what I'd do if I were in charge, perish the thought.

MawKernewek said...

I did try writing a computer program to count up the number of cases, and deaths with various assumptions.

Assuming that someone is contagious for 20 days, after which they either recover or die, then if each sufferer infects two people you have a doubling period of 20 days. This doubling period is sensitive to the choice of this number. At 1.4 it is now a doubling time of 40 days, 1.2 80 days and 1.1 160 days. The rule of thumb of 2^10 = 10^3 can help thinking what sort of numbers of cases will be reached.

Without really knowing the situation on the ground in the affected areas, it's hard to say how this will pan out.

Even the exponential function is a simplification. It could be that as the number of cases increases, public health infrastructure becomes increasingly overwhelmed in the affected areas, leading to a larger average number of infections per sufferer, or that over time, the virus finds the most vulnerable communities and grows faster there. Thus it would become superexponential. Or else that in relatively speaking more developed countries such as Nigeria and Ghana the infection rate would be too low for a self-sustaining epidemic, at least until the numbers of infected people coming out of the worst affected areas are sufficient.

The prospect of groups like Boko Haram in Nigeria deliberately spreading the infection is another frightening element to the mix.

The search engine Wolfram Alpha can be useful to get an idea of the populations of different countries. It is possible to search the populations of countries, but also list the largest cities, or compare areas and do calculations.

team10tim said...

Hey hey All,

The Ebola thingy may be making a turn for the better. I ran the exponential fit from the Wikipedia data two weeks ago and it made me really nervous.

I just reran the numbers with the current data and the number of new cases per day is falling, which is inconsistent with exponential growth. It's early to tell if this is just noise, random variation in an otherwise exponential increase, or if it is the beginning of real containment. Here's the data constructed from Wikipedia.

new cases date
? 8/1/2014
36 8/4/2014
34 8/6/2014
23 8/9/2014
64 8/11/2014
76 8/13/2014
38 8/16/2014
117 8/18/2014
71 8/20/2014
91 8/25/2014
106 8/31/2014
98 9/3/2014
91 9/7/2014
160 9/10/2014
123 9/14/2014
141 9/17/2014
125 9/21/2014
156 9/23/2014
117 9/25/2014
128 9/28/2014
100 10/1/2014


Raymond Duckling said...

@Ing. Could you please elaborate about what you mean by Ebola riding the immune system?

From what I have read about Spanish flu, it killed mainly by a cytokine storm, which is basically a strong overreaction of the immune system. The result was that mortality amongst young healthy adults was higher than the equivalent among children, the elderly, and the otherwise sick (which are typically the most vulnerable groups). This is the same pattern followed by the much smaller epidemics of 2003 (SARS) and 2009 (A(H1N1) influenza), but official results are preliminary/contested.

Nothing I have read so far suggest that Ebola in general, or the West African strain in particular, follows that pattern.

What I think you have read is that after infection (and this is a key issue, will come back to it later), Ebola virus makes affected cells to produce a type of glycoprotein (sGP) that helps it inhibit early immune response and bind itself to some type if while cell, neutrophils, which then allows it to travel through the blood vessels to the internal organs (specially, but not exclusively, the liver and kidneys).

I am neither a doctor nor a military officer, and what I am going to say is highly speculative... but the strategy you propose is the equivalent of Defense in Depth: the conscious decision to give up territory to the enemy, in the hope that it will spread its lines thin while you conserve strength for a powerful and decisive counter-attack. I don't think that strategy is going to work. The disease will not grow weaker as it moves inside your body, but stronger, and since there is no known cure the possibility of a decisive counter-attack is nil.

Back to the issue of infection, you have to consider that having contact with the virus is not game-over. First, it has to enter your tissue through either broken skin of natural body orifices (most likely nose, mouth or eyes). Once it has entered your tissue, infection is not complete until at least one viron has managed to break a cell's membrane and get himself into the safety of its cytoplasm. Before that happens, the viron is floating inside the aqueous mean called the interstitial space, where it is preyed upon by the immune system.

If my argument is correct - and I am far from sure it is - having a strong immune system will prevent infection in exactly the most common situations where exposure is likely for non healthcare workers: direct contact with non symptomatic patients that are borderline infectious at the time.

@all. Please tear down my argument if you can. Advice is a dangerous thing for both giver and taker, and it's way better to be proven wrong during cross examination than on first contact with the enemy.

team10tim said...

RE: Ebola new cases per day falling

Caveats and addendum:

I am still very worried about Ebola. The drop in new cases per day (if the data is accurate) might be the beginning of a trend. If it is the beginning of a trend then it could still be thwarted by the Hajj, or the cocoa harvesting season, undocumented cases in Sudan, etc.

Further, if it is a trend, we could still have a lapse that gets it going again. I understand (someone told me, I don't have a source) that Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia each had Ebola contained once and were reinfected after containment.

Lastly, if Ebola peters out then it will be something else. The four horsemen are a regular feature of a civilization in overshoot. It's a question of when, not if.


Violet Cabra said...

okay, my ebola info compilation/thought experiment is available at:

admittedly it is limited by what I was able to understand, and is by no means comprehensive. However I personally feel better coming up with some sorta protocol and contingency plan I can adhere to in the months ahead, rather than just fearfully ruminating.

hope others might find it useful, just please remember I'm not a medical professional and am not providing medical advice or even suggestions! It's most ideal if people work out their own contingency plans based on the details of their life.

Robert said...

Ebola - a symptom of ecological and social collapse.

Chickens coming home to roost?

Ms. Krieger said...

In case no one has posted this yet, Nature magazine wrote a very moving explanation of the Ebola paper with the 'In memoriam' statement listing the doctors, nurses and midwife who died collecting that data:

In short, they ran out of basic protective supplies (gloves, gowns, masks) but continued to take patients anyway because they did not want them out in the community, infecting others. It is a travesty that they actually had colleagues in the US advocating for them yet still could not get the supplies they needed in the capital of Sierra Leone.

And another link, less Ebola-oriented link is here...apparently even mainstream think tanks and professors in places like the University of Connecticut are getting a clue that civilization goes through cycles and endless progress is a myth. This ran in the Eurasia Review:

Ms. Krieger said...

@raymond duckling

Your description of Ebola infection is incorrect. I recently interviewed an infectious disease specialist who said that Ebola--unlike Hep C or HIV--does not require a blood-to-blood contact. It may not even require mucus membrane contact. It may be able to pass from skin to skin. They just don't know, he said.

onething said...

According to this article, it is indeed the cytokine storm that kills, part of that storm leads to the extreme fluid loss that can cause such loss of volume to the vasculature (nothing in the veins). Extreme loss of blood pressure is also very damaging to the kidneys.

The best the Nigerians have been able to do is 60% survival with supportive care. I wonder if that could be improved with some natural supplements and herbs.

7a688e80-b988-11e3-97eb-000bcdca4d7a said...

Shining Hector, for whatever its worth...kindly examine this CNN report about a doctor in Liberia who read the medical literature and deduced that one of the existing HIV drugs might act on the Ebola virus. He put his theory to the test. Acyclovir didn't work. Then he tried lamivudine.

I'm no doctor, but getting the death rate down to two out of 15 sounds decent.

Robert said...

Discussion of Ebola at London Frontline Club

Ing said...

Raymond, you are right, I have read that and have been trying to understand. It seems that you understand my response as well, that to stimulate the immune system might give more ground or easier access to the virus. This notion comes from my understanding that there are times when stimulating the immune system plays into a disease or dysfunction, such as in some autoimmune diseases. I am still reading and trying to understand the mechanisms involved. I'll have a think on what you've said as I continue learning. Please understand that I am not proposing anything to anyone, I hope others will take anything I say the way I take what they say and that is as a starting point. When I hear mention of an herb with which I am unfamiliar, I read up on it. I very much appreciate everyone's sharing and wish to contribute the same, and do not consider myself an authority.

Violet, that's a great book. I also like the idea of working with tonic herbs now to strengthen our systems in general. In addition, I've been motivated to change some habits that while not outright detrimental probably weren't contributing to my overall health. I'm looking forward to reading your blog!

JMG, I'm delighted to have the thread to follow for Fleabane (Erigeron—I really need to be in the habit of botanical and common names), thanks! We looked for it today while on a walk and have many look-alikes growing everywhere. We either don't have it where we have access or it's season has passed. I found a terrific write up in The Earthwise Herbal, A Complete Guide to New World Medicinal Plants by Matthew Wood and another one from King's American Dispensatory on Henriette Kress' site, which is a great free resource online (

onething said...

Violet Cabra,

I applaud your efforts. When thinking of cytokine storm, it is indeed complicated. Reading around on sites it seems there is some folk knowledge out there re which treatments are anti inflammatory (good in this case) and which might not be the right thing for a cytokine storm. For example:

The Bad Guys (Remember, we're just talking about cytokine storms here - these herbs are generally very good for immune systems!)
Elderberry Juice (Sambucal) - AVOID - Increases production of cytokines TNF-a and IL-6. This substance is very effective against the common flu but may not be desirable for the H1N1 virus. Increases in these cytokines may trigger a lethal cytokine storm. (Isr Med Journal2002 Nov;4:944-6)

Micro Algae (Chlorella and Spirulina) - AVOID - Increases production of cytokine TNF-a. (Pubmed PMID 11731916)

Honey - AVOID - Increases production of cytokines TNF-a and IL-6. (Pubmed PMID12824009)

Chocolate - AVOID - Increases production of cytokines TNF-a and IL-6. (Pubmed PMID 12885154, PMID 10917928)

Echinacea - AVOID - Increases production of cytokines TNF-a and IL-6. Although it is often used for normal flu, research shows that it may increase the chance of cytokine storms for H1N1. (Pubmed PMID 15556647, 9568541)

Kimchee - AVOID - Increases production of cytokines TNF-a and IL-6. (Pubmed PMID15630182)

Coiloidal Silver - AVOID - While silver will likely work to kill the swine flu virus, in many healthy individuals it is likely to elicit a severe cytokine storm reaction.

Some good things to use might be (everyone should research everything), um, well...nicotine, and oil of clove, turmeric, garlic, feverfew, green tea and St. John's wort.
However, a nauseated person might not tolerate garlic too well.

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

@Andy Brown--I had the same thoughts as you about the mistreatment of the Dallas family of the infected patient.

History is rhyming again. The responses of various factions to the arrival of Ebola in Texas echo the outbreak of bubonic plague in San Francisco and Honolulu 1900-1907. That episode is more directly comparable than is the Spanish Influenza pandemic to what's happening here (so far). In particular, the vector of contagion was international travel, was associated with a despised immigrant population, and the medicos knew enough enough about the disease to diagnose it accurately and to have some agreement on containment measures.

There are a lot of places to read up on the Chinatown SF plague outbreak of the early twentieth century. Here's one:

Some of the most telling details about the back and forth between politicians, the business community, the newspapers, and the residents of Chinatown are toward the end of the article.

magicalthyme said...

I've spent yesterday and today reading the pathophysiology of Ebola infection. In a nutshell, it initially infects monocytes and macrophages -- the innate, nonspecific immune system that normally protects us from nonself -- and when the new virions bud from those cells they start a cytokine storm, with a massive inflammatory response. The virions then infect the endothelial cells, which line blood vessels. Between the cytokine storm and the attack on the endothelial cells, the structural integrity of the blood vessels begins to fail. This starts DIC (disseminated intravascular coagulation), which means the coagulation system goes haywire, creating blood clots everywhere. The blood clots impede circulation in smaller vessels, causing tissue death throughout. This is especially severe in the liver, which is rich in blood vessels. The loss of integrity also allows blood components to begin leaking. Eventually, the DIC leads to lack of platelets and clotting factor, which then leads to bruising and hemorrhage. In the meantime, lymph cells also get infected, leading to mass apoptosis (cell suicide). The apoptosis releases nitric oxide. If the patient survives long enough, they'll pump out new lymphs as fast as possible, leading to many immature cells. Some lymphs will manage to be functional, initiating an antibody response. Obviously, though, most succomb to hypovolemic shock. All of this happens very quickly without intensive treatment.

The good news is that Ebola is relatively fragile outside of the body. It does persist longer in cooler temperatures than at room temp. It is also destroyed by UV light. The absolute best protection, frankly, is to avoid exposure.

More to come.

magicalthyme said...

Other than the experimental treatments, treatment is totally supportive. Parentarel nutrition, support of failing organs such as ventilation to oxygenate so patient can rest and to help the organs clear the clots, vasopressin to maintain blood pressure, blood transfusions to replace clotting factors, etc.

Patients that do survive often have severe organ damage, some permanent. Convalesence is slow and the immune system obviously compromised for some time. Here is where I think herbs could best help, by supporting the injured organs and helping to rebuild the immune system.

The best prevention is to avoid exposure, cover even the tiniest scratches, keep skin from becoming chapped. If there were an outbreak, I'd hunker down at home. The cameraman remembers getting a little splashback on his face while he was helping to clean a chair that a victim sat in. I read that 40-50% of exposures result in infection.


Violet Cabra said...

Onething, first thank you so much for your response!

I've updated my blog post, eliminating elderberry and including a new section called "contraindicated herbs and foods" which is copied from here, with a footnote giving you hearty thanks.

I encourage anyone who reads the essay to likewise submit feedback - I will take everything into account, and am more than happy to edit my writings as new info comes to light.

Dornier Pfeil said...

Elizabeth Kennett,
If you want to get rid of the radioactive waste of our society the best you could do would be to fuse it into glass and concrete cylinders 100 feet long by 5 feet in diameter and shaped like the common darts you find in bars anywhere in the country, complete with pointed nose and detachable tail fins. Then you sail over the Marianas trench and drop them. 35,000 feet down the muck has the consistency of peanut butter and a 100 ton projectile moving at about 50-60 knots will bury itself nicely. Then subduction will finish the job for us, eventually taking the waste into the mantle in a few million years. This has the added benefit of ensuring the waste is inaccessible to malign forces who would see it as a weapon.

Emmanuel Goldstein said...

Great post as always, JMG--
Where I live, in the suburbs of Baltimore, wild deer eat everything in sight. The same gardeners who complain about the deer are shocked at the idea of letting hunters cull the herds during hunting season. Once again JMG, you have pointed out the obvious, all-natural solution--Re-introducing wolf packs in the suburbs! It works in Yellowstone, and it will work in our neighborhoods too! Packs of wolves roaming the suburbs of Baltimore would solve the deer problem, cut back on the stray cat-and-dog problem, and could even discourage burglary in a way that will not bog down the courts or clog up the jails. I think this slight ecological change can work wonders throughout suburban America, if given a chance...

DeAnander said...

More dots being connected. Naively polemical, but yes, I do suspect that deforestation, desperate resort to unconventional food sources, etc, are all factors. Not to mention the CAFO or prison-style crowding of 3rd world slums (and some in the 1st world as well), the perfect incubation/transmission environment for new and improved bacteria and viruses (viri?)...

Increasingly it seems to me that there are a few basic, tried-n-true healthy lifeways for humans, and the further we stray from them the more precarious our civilisation becomes. Farming, fishing, forestry, nomadic grazing/herding, hunting in the higher latitudes... gathering/hunting in the rainforests... people managed to get along and multiply and succeed for millennia doing this kind of stuff; and they had culture, music, dancing, arts, lots of extras. But start concentrating in big urban areas and building ambitious empires and pretty quickly there's trouble (along with Art with a cap-A and Byzantine politics and obscene concentrations of wealth).

Of course I'm delivering this little sermon sitting at a laptop, and painfully aware of the cognitive dissonance.

Raymond Duckling said...

@Ing. It is a given that we will have to decide and act based on incomplete or inaccurate information. Each can only hope to do their best and pray for a favorable outcome.

As we keep digging into it, and sharing what we find, more jigsaw pieces will fall into their places.

@Ms Krieger. It was not my intention to say that the transmission mechanism is the same as HIV/Hepatitis C. And you are probably right when saying that it is best not to expose any skin at all.

That being said, I still do not buy the idea of "any contact is equivalent to infection". The virons themselves are, strictly speaking, not alive and cannot reproduce until they manage to hijack a living cell. I do not think there are any suitable candidates in the epidermis, so they need to find their way in to the internal tissues, though the mechanism(s) is(are) not completely clear.

@Onething. That's a very interesting article, and I will probably end up reconsidering my preparation strategy to include the info into it (though I would feel much better if I had access to the per-group-age mortality of current Ebola outbreak and check the pattern by myself). My family and me are semi-regular users of echinacea, so it was highly relevant.

@Violet Cabra. You have got a nice summary there, thanks for sharing. I specially liked the analogy to Sun Tzu's.

Shining Hector said...


It's plausible HIV drugs might help, it is an RNA virus. n=15 isn't a whole lot to go by, and there might have been other confounding factors. There's really not enough to go on to say it's not due to random chance. It's worth further study, though.

I don't know what the plans are for testing drug efficacy down there. A randomized control trial with a control group would be unethical to say the least given the situation, but comparative studies of different treatments might be helpful. I would just hope promising existing drugs would be in the mix too and not just these new experimental drugs.

Whether you'd get the patients to agree to the studies would be the kicker, there seems to be a lot of anxiety down there concerning being made into guinea pigs for the drug companies. Somewhat justified given past history, but it can be done in a manner which puts patient welfare foremost, and it's going to have to be done in some fashion or we're left with just throwing a bunch of stuff against the wall and hoping something sticks, which often does more harm than good.

Cherokee Organics said...


Congratulations! This weeks ADR essay which I've dubbed the Ebola entry is a record for comments.

Mind you, last December I - who hasn't has a single day sick leave for 6 years - had to be hospitalised.

Anyway, it got me thinking about herbs, so I put together a quick video in this weeks blog:

Now you see it now you don't



Unknown said...

I find myself jealous of your relict buffalo and relict tribes. Here in East Anglia the original ecosystem was fen and salt marsh, and we've been modernising for centuries. There's not much in the way of local tradition to fall back on.


Phil Harris said...

My mind had turned to adjacent 'plague villages'.
You replied: "Phil, it is just a breath away. That's normal. The last seventy-five years aren't."

I wrote to a friend just now: "I am professionally limited to experience with Plant (crop) Quarantine and containment of plant RNA viruses, but remember the struggle a few years ago in this part of the world with Foot and Mouth virus in sheep and cattle. Without a massively available effective vaccine we are pretty much as vulnerable as mediaeval populations."

BTW For those who have asked you for your source for "riding on the back of the immune system" , I can back you up with a good technical intro to Ebola and similar viruses - using the infected immune system - which is here
Quote: "Ebola virus, on the other hand, is a broader-acting and more non-specific pathogen that can impede the proper functioning of macrophages and dendritic cells—immune response cells located throughout the epithelium.15,16 Epithelial tissues are found throughout the body, including in the respiratory tract. Ebola prevents these cells from carrying out their antiviral functions but does not interfere with the initial inflammatory response, which attracts additional cells to the infection site. The latter contribute to further dissemination of the virus and similar adverse consequences far beyond the initial infection site."


magicalthyme said...

Ebola clean up and infection control: If exposure prevention and anti-viral herbs fail, and you are caring for a loved one who is infected, protecting yourself becomes more complicated.

Per the WHO, along with bleach and UV light, topical alcohol will destroy the virus. Note that you will need to allow the alcohol to air dry since it works by dehydrating the surface membranes (at least, that is how it destroys gram neg bacteria). Also be aware that UV light does not penetrate glass, so use it outside. In Africa, they wash, disinfect and air dry reusable PPEs outside in full sun.

A Liberian nurse recently saved 3 out of 4 family members she treated at home, using an IV setup up and gloves from work and fashioning her own PPEs from ,things around the house. Presumably we won't have IV setups or hospital gloves, but when you aren't trying to find a vein and insert a needle, you don't need them. That's a good thing, since accidentally needlesticks are the worst kind of exposure and hospital gloves tear easily. You will want to use inprenetrable gloves, such as kitchen gloves.

The nurse used multi-layers of large plastic garbage bags to cover her feet and legs, taped below her knees. I'd tape them above knee if possible, but you get the idea. Tall, uncracked rubber boots would be ideal, since cleanable and reusable. She wore a waterproof raincoat. She wrapped her hair in stockings and then covered her head. She also fashioned a face mask.

How to remove disposable gloves: with your nondominant hand, pinch up the glove on your dominant hand between thumb and forefinger near, but not over, the edge of the glove and pull it inside out while you pull it off. You can now take the unexposed inside of the glove into your uncovered dominant hand. Using the inside/unexposed glove to protect yourself from the gloved hand and finger, slide the forefinger of your dominant hand under the edge of the glove and pull it off inside out and over the free glove. You will now have 2 gloves inside out, one completely wrapped inside the other, without having touched the outside of either glove. It's a good trick to practice a few times before you need it.

If you don't have disposable gloves (and we probably won't, or at least not enough), then wash and disinfect the gloves totally, letting them air dry.

I'd wear a waterproof rain hat and if possible, fashion a clear plastic face shield for complete facial protection. If opened at the back and bottom to allow air to enter, it will protect from splash back while cleaning.

Patients generate massive amounts of infectious waste, from sweat-soaked sheets and clothes to towels and rags used to clean up vomit, etc. So you will need to be prepared to double or triple bag the waste and if possible remove immediately to a large, sealed plastic or metal bin for temporary storage until you can incinerate or otherwise deal with later.

If you keep the sick person in one room with a single entrance, and keep plastic bags, rags, hand washing materials and an alcohol foot bath right at that entrance, it will help control the ongoing cleanup and prevent spread throughout your home.


magicalthyme said...

7a6 and shining hector -- the NIH is already testing it (HIV drug lamivudine) in test tubes. So far no reaction, so they are trying different dosages. With even slight reaction, may go to trial.

Ellen He said...

@JMG: Patient Zero is being prosecuted. He may be jailed. We'll have The Walking Dead in a few weeks if he's jailed in Liberia.
On another note, there's such a thing as the pessimistic branch religion of progress. It differs from the optimistic mainstream in stating that:
1. Progress is not inevitable and "we" must fight for it
2. The resulting interstellar civilization will always have problems.

redoak said...

A bit off topic now, but earlier in the comments several people posted about beavers as keystone species. I hardily agree and wanted to offer a couple thoughts in that direction. I am good friends with a wildlife specialist with USDA who spent his apprenticeship with that program doing beaver control in the southeast. Basically his job was to wage war on the beaver using traps, guns, and dynamite. It was and remains a holding action and most of the effort is expended on protecting highway infrastructure at considerable expense.

I think the intersection of beaver and modern roads is going to be pretty interesting. As many of you probably know, beaver are pretty good at plugging up culverts. In modern road design we tend to level the roadway through “cut and fill” techniques that are totally dependent on culvert maintenance. Next time you are out for a ride imagine what happens when every little creek and trickle along your way has a resident family of beavers taking up management of the operation. The impoundments they can create against a modern road can be pretty “dam” big. Pretty soon you’ve got wetlands, ponds, and lakes all over the place. Now that’s a keystone species at work.

The longer term impacts are significant. Roads are not meant to be dams, so eventually they will give way and release whatever impoundments happen to be behind them. Eventually the beavers will remove all the “cut and fill” and formerly sensible level roads will become very difficult or impassable routes. Modern interstates use heroic applications of “cut and fill” and will suffer the most from beaver action.

Imagine those beavers at work on your next commute, they’ve got big plans!

Bob Patterson said...

Just finished Star's Reach. Enjoyed it a lot. It is certainly the "Huckelberry Finn" of the 26th (?) century. Electric cars were the tail end of a system predicated on nuclear power. Since Japan, Germany and France (where the plants were run by government scientists) oculd not make them run safely, economically and reliably, that notion is moot. BTW...if Ebola is a serious threat, why isn't Texas quarantined, as far as people entering/exiting goes?

Ing said...

Magicalthyme, Mary, many thanks for your work in explaining the path and effects of the virus.

This continues to be a great conversation.

onething said...

Violet Cabra you have thanked me but I am feeling that the more I read the more complex it is, and what a responsibility to try to self train without making a grave error. Of course, that is the way of it when you try to use natural treatments - you're on your own for the most part. Most of the items on the "no" list are things we might be taking now in the hopes of strengthening our immune systems for the possibility of exposure. Elderberry has both berries and flowers which I did not even know until yesterday. They are not the same.

Also, I am wondering about nanosilver being on the no list. It states it might create a cytokine storm. I don't understand that as I thought silver was essentially "cidal." I also read that a study was done on silver for ebola and it had great efficacy - but only when taken after exposure and before symptoms.

It is very interesting that 40 or 50% of people exposed do not get the disease. This is worth looking at, although not really surprising. I also want to know more about the ones who survive. It looks like it is similar to the 1918 flu pandemic, in that children fare slightly better, perhaps due to not putting up as strong a storm. But it also occurs to me (What do you think, Magicalthyme?) that it might be sheer luck in that if you get just a tiny exposure of a few virions, perhaps your body begins to spot the problem before enough replication has occurred to totally overwhelm you.

I should go over to your site Violet Cabra, but along with treatments, there should be components about how to avoid exposure and what to do with contagion/decontamination if you are trying to treat someone at home. For one small example, it will be better to give them some sort of bedside commode than let them use the flush toilet, as flushes send small particles all over your bathroom - yes, better don't keep your toothbrush too close to a flush toilet! For the same reason, don't flush their vomit or feces.

Violet Cabra said...

onething, re the complexities of using herbs.

I'm in total agreement! It is absolutely baffling, and perhaps it would be better to focus solely on preventative care?

A vital part of the thought experiment is "what if there are no doctors or hospitals available?" I am in earnest that if I were to get sick with ebola the first place I would go was the isolation room in a hospital, granted that one was available. If not then I would muddle along the best I could with the knowledge I have. The result wouldn't be total certainty, it would be putting one foot in front of the other and praying a lot. I honestly think I would stand a much better chance through western medicine.

The part about disposal of contagions is an important detail, though ideas about caring for others is unfortunately way beyond the scope of my essay and the parameters of the thought experiment, in large part for legal reasons, and also because of my own lack of familiarity and knowledge about caring for infectious sick people in any capacity.

I would be honored if you posted your thoughts as they come up to my site. I'm sure that would enrich the essay as they already have.

Kylie said...

Courtesy of the Automatic Earth, Bloomberg admits that energy constraints may limit growth:

Warning: the link is not friendly to older versions of IE.

Also on the topic of limits: it seems like the entire superhero genre is an exercise in rejecting the limits of ordinary life. Getting old? Regret your choices? Time travel will save you! Find an alternate dimension! Never mind dealing with those pesky complications of dealing with other people, technology and violence will solve all your problems! This blog has quite ruined the genre for me.

The next question is whether the current fashion for superhero movies is a result of good marketing, or whether they're popular as a way for people to escape the limits on their own lives.

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

@Andy Brown--Update on my previous response to your speculation about what brought about the change in the way Dallas officialdom treated the family that had been exposed to Ebola.

Tonight TV cable news host Rachel Maddow interviewed the man she credits with having found them a house to move to. He accepts the credit and was televised carrying the girl in his arms and giving her a car ride, not wearing any protective gear.

His name is Clay Jenkins. His official title is Dallas County Judge. According to Maddow, he is the top elected official of the county.

Jenkins received praise from Maddow this summer when so many women and children from Central America were crossing into the US and surrendering to immigration authorities, expecting to be allowed to stay. Judge Jenkins made a public commitment that Dallas County would find decent housing for all the children who arrived in the county and not try to ship them off somewhere. He stated that children deserved to be treated as children, not as enemies or threats. That wasn't a popular stand in all quarters.

In the interview this afternoon, he said, "The science [about the disease] is known, and I rely on the science." He said that the delay in rehousing the family happened because all the places that were asked refused to house them; "There was no room at the inn." (Exact quote.) He said he found the house where they are now staying by turning to his "faith community."

Apparently Clay Jenkins is a leader and a Christian who takes the Golden Rule and Jesus's saying about how we treat the least of these to heart. His use of the term "my faith community" instead of "my church" also indicates that he doesn't parade religiosity or wish to imply that only Christians have concern for the welfare of others.

Altogether an unusual man and I hope he doesn't lose his post in the next election.

Morgenfrue said...

A nurse in Spain is the first person infected outside of West Africa - in spite of safety gear it seems.

Cherokee Organics said...


This week's responses to your essay has made me truly wonder. Honestly, I’m shaking my head.

So much of the energy expended by our civilisation is used to insulate the human population from nature.

However, whilst I find the threat of Ebola to be concerning and even somewhat alarming, that virus is also part of the natural world in which we exist. We don’t live in isolation.

This concept is lost on most people, because: as humans are stressing the environment in which they live, so to are the lives of those humans in that environment becoming equally stressed.

It is folly to think that we are somehow separate from the environment that we live in.

You can see this principle in action when you try to grow a fruit tree in mineral depleted and biologically depleted soils. It gets diseased and quickly prone to attack from predators.

Look, we might get lucky and get past this outbreak unscathed, but as environmental stresses build up, so to do the potential predators and pathogens waiting to act as the negative feedback loops which is what they in fact really are.

That is what decline looks like. It would be good for people to consider what the soils in their own backyard look like.

Phew, where did that lot come from?



Cherokee Organics said...


The Buffalo is sort of like Ebola really in that they're both with us as part of the natural ecology. Both can kill you though.

magicalthyme said...

Onething, Some weeks ago I read that about 10% of the indigenous population show antibodies without ever having been sick. The hypthesis is that possibly they had very low dose exposure through, for example, a piece contaminated fruit. So you're thinking is in the right place.

I also noticed that number correlates nicely with the 90% fatality rate when untreated. Correlation does not equal causation, but it does give some pause.

re: 40-50% contracting the disease after exposure, if you get a splash of vomit on your skin you are exposed. If your skin is intact and you wash it off immediately, you'll be ok. If you have a tiny cut there, even microscopic, it can get in and infect. Or if it's on your hand, you aren't aware of it, and you rub your eye, it can get in through the mucus membrane and infect.

Studies show that it only takes 1-10 virions to infect, but that would be monkeys. Hard to imagine, but it it more devastating to monkeys than humans. They have a 100% fatality rate.

Until now I've been feeling pretty lucky. Locally we have Somalian communities, but they're on the opposite side of Africa with strong countries and the ocean around them. And they're not exactly a "go to" place if you're looking to escape a disease. And we have international travelers, but I haven't seen any from Africa. Just some Asia and mostly Europe. A Spanish nurse with only 2 potential exposures contagious on vacation and sent away when she called in her initial symptoms is making it a little too real to me.

I have concerns about the guideline criteria for suspician. The ony 2 positives diagnosed outside Africa, and both initially turned away because their low fevers didn't meet the 101.5F threshold tells me the criteria need to be revisited. Duncan's temp was 100.1. Personally I think any symptom of a potentially exposed person should be enough, and 100F works for me. Or course, nobody's asking me, lol.

Dan Bashaw said...

We've kept an anti-viral kit with a focus on protective gear, herbs and basic medicines, and re-hydration since the 1996 Ebola outbreak, and will definitely update it with these excellent suggestions and resources in mind. It has offered a bit of peace of mind though the various flu and SARS outbreaks over the past couple of decades.

I would inject an uncharacteristic note of optimism into the discussion though... having followed emerging diseases over the years, I have noticed that they are oddly self-limiting in an unexpected way. This was especially obvious with SARS, where the disease should have done a global run based on its distribution in Asia and its transmissivity, but suddenly, and seeming inexplicably just... stopped. This reversal was so dramatic that at the time I wondered if SARS had an engineered component, but since then have seen similar effects with the various flus.

Science would probably not support it, but I have begun to think of acute viral diseases as having Transmissivity (R0) and a 'Timer' (X0) that is seemingly an independent variable. R0 has it's way until X0 is triggered, and then the virus suddenly goes underground to gloat at its success and plot its next outbreak, perhaps decades later.

Based on the JMG principle that "It's not really that different this time" I would not be surprised to see Ebola just...quit.

So, I prepare, but I also keep in mind that the last half dozen times I did so the preparations were not used, and I try to maintain a balanced stance when I discuss it with others. I encourage them to do the same, and to keep an eye on how the Buffalo Wind is blowing, but also to keep in mind that they are preparing for one possible scenario, not for a certain outcome.

I have found there are upsides to being over-prepared in this way -- One is that I'm never short of N95 masks when I need to insulate an old attic!

Dagnarus said...

If people haven't already heard there has now been a case of ebola infection in Spain.

Apparently one of the nurses caught it while caring for a repatriated patient. The article suggests that the transmission was caused by substandard hazmat suit. I wonder how many other hospitals in the developed world have cut costs in the same way?

Ing said...

Phil, I just saw your last comment. Thanks for the link.

Scotlyn said...

Onething and Violet. Ref a commode, my domestic sanitation is a biolitter toilet with contents moved to a compost heap outside as needed. Googling images of "lovable loos" will give an idea of set up. Ensuring all biological wastes are immediately covered with sawdust (kept in a bucket beside the toilet) prevents smells and would go a long way to preventing splashes. I consider this could be very useful in a sickroom, as with care and attention, contents could be moved with a minimum of contamination risk, and buried very deeply in a place unlikely to be disturbed for food growing.

rawillis3 said...

[note to jmg, the previous comment, from fucshia, was meant to come from my google account, not hers]

Pinku-Sensei said...

One of the subjects of your essay last week, Paul Krugman, has yet denounced people who say there are limits to growth. Here's how he opened his blog entry today.

"Environmental pessimism makes strange bedfellows. We seem to be having a moment in which three groups with very different agendas — anti-environmentalist conservatives, anti-capitalist people on the left, and hard scientists who think they are smarter than economists — have formed an unholy alliance on behalf of the proposition that reducing greenhouse gas emissions is incompatible with growing real GDP."

This time, his target is not the Post-Carbon Institute. Instead, it's Mark Buchanan at Bloomberg, who posted a response to the same opinion piece that prompted your essay last week. The title of Buchanan's piece is revealing--"Economists Are Blind to the Limits of Growth."

This sent Krugman off into a discussion of how economies can use energy more efficiently, doing the same with less, using an example from shipping. He completely ignored the possibilities arising from resource depletion. Peak oil? As I wrote before, he's not having it.

Krugman also revealed that he's been critical of "Limits to Growth" for 40 years. When he was the research assistant to William Nordhaus, he picked up the latter's distain for both the ideas expressed and especially the execution.

It turns out Krugman has been beating up on "Limits to Growth" and its predecessor Jay Forrester’s "World Dynamics" for at least six years. Here's a link to an blog entry from 2008. Paradoxically, it also notes that things on the energy front haven't worked out as well as the optimists in the early 1970s thought they would. As Churchill once wrote, people will occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them will pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had ever happened.

onething said...

Violet and all,

No, I certainly don't think we should focus on only prevention. That's number one, but if it fails, it is certainly better to have something rather than nothing. I think that some things are also pretty reliable as being helpful. Coping with fluid loss by rectal administration or slow sipping to avoid retching, and using the right mix of salt and sugar in the water seems very safe. I would be quite comfortable adding vitamin C to the mix. In fact, Emergen C already has electrolytes and some B vitamins. People with diarrhea run short of magnesium and potassium. It seems very likely to me that ebola would deplete vit C, D, and A. And D is apparently soothing to the immune system so far as the storm.

Personally, I think the ideal would be to go to a hospital that provides the above, and they are unlikely to do so. They just don't operate that way.

My approach would be to research other herbs carefully, and then use them as the base for all efforts at hydration.

I know you are young and single, but those who have families, esp children, will need to think about that. Quarantine and cleanup. If you care for someone, you would need to be incredibly careful to suit up every time, and decontaminate carefully.

I have wondered about burial of wastes - whether that is safe. Ebola may have animal vectors that could keep the virus in the background. I also am not sure about burning. I believe both would have to be done correctly. If burning, I think a cover should be used, preferably over a hole in the ground. Also wondering what to do with plastic waste.

exiledbear said...

The Ebola-chan business is a nastily effective little tool for causing changes in consciousness, and not helpful ones, either.

Something about the way people respond when anyone brings that "sigil" up rubs me the wrong way, in a way I can quite put into words. I'm not a master of magic, I'm sure you have the words that I lack from lack of training.


That I know for sure.

In fact don't bother saying anything, just do stuff. Like getting facemasks or laying in supplies if you're going to shelter-in-place or getting a gas-powered scooter if you need to evacuate a big city and you expect a traffic jam.

Shut up and do something. Like my old flight instructor told me, do something, even if you're not sure it's the right thing to do.

Doing something > doing nothing.

Avery said...

What an astonishing link, Pinku-Sensei. Not to say that JMG should waste tomorrow's installment by attempting to seek out some logic in that post, but it's like Krugman is purposefully trying to make cornucopianism look ridiculous.

Stephen said...

On the esoteric subject much more popular than Ebolachan what has the huge surge in Zombie and Vampire films over the last decade or so been but great big totems to Nurgle, death decay and disease. Most vampire films in the last decade or more seem to be told from the perspective of the vampire and seem to portray it as a desirable lifestyle... sorry deathstyle. We could see the surge in these themes in fiction as a subconciouse premonition or even a summoning of the coming plague.

It was about 2 weeks ago that the numbers infected went over 6000 but the tatal number has only just gone over 7000 (does anyone have a link to a site with regularly updated figures with graphs?)And countries like Nigeria with smaller outbreaks claim to of brought it under control. So it may be that a better response is slowing down the spread but as its still growing the heath workers in Liberia and Sierra Leone could still be overwhelmed and the slower growth in the figures could just be that less people are bothering to report the infected or dead and dying to the overwhelmed clean up crews. Which would mean the infection rate is actually accelerating despite a slowdown in the growth of official figures.

DeAnander said...

"scientists who think they are smarter than economists"

well that's not saying much :-)

Violet Cabra said...

Onething, thank you again for your response. I've done some research on the potential use of vitamin C in treating ebola, and it seems promising as a stand-alone treatment ( and I've added vitamin C information and links to my essay, also I mention emergen-c in the ORS section.

Personally, I continue to be overwhelmed by the amount of subtlety and information I need to consider for contemplating homecare for myself. I'm grateful that it isn't "crunch time" yet, so there is still time to make intelligent preparations and learn about the subtleties involved.

But wow there are a lot of subtleties and details, some of which appear to be waiting to eviscerate me.


This conversation is going to close later today and I don't know if it will continue to be on topic to discuss ebola on the archdruid report. I hope that doesn't mean though that the conversation stops. I would encourage people who are interested in planning for the contingency of self-treatment and/or home care to keep the conversation going on my blog If this is already happening on some other corner of the internet please let me know so I can check it out and learn valuable things.

The conversation we're having is important, and I think it benefits all parties to have more eyes doing over it and voices speaking up. If we continue to check each other's work and preparations and do research we can potentially arrive at a highly refined course of action should we depend on it for our lives. I think that people working in isolation on this are less likely to get as good of results as fast.

Robert said...

Anyone who believes in infinite growth on a finite planet is either mad or an economist.

troy said...


"It was about 2 weeks ago that the numbers infected went over 6000 but the tatal number has only just gone over 7000 (does anyone have a link to a site with regularly updated figures with graphs?)"

The WHO's site seems to be the best about keeping their numbers updated. Here's the WHO Ebola site:

On the right side of that page, look for Situation Report Update. I would link the report directly, but it's a PDF so the link changes whenever they upload a new one. They don't have graphs, but they do have maps of where new cases are coming from.

The current official figures of 7470 cases and 3431 deaths (as of Oct 3) is an enormous under-count, however. I suspect the leveling off of new reported cases is due to laboratories reaching their maximum capacity to test samples. An Ebola case is not "confirmed" unless a lab test is done that comes back positive. A case is not "probable" unless there is a verifiable epidemiological link to another confirmed or probable case. You can probably see why these criteria would result in an under-count. I'm reminded of that New York Times piece a few weeks ago about a cemetery in Freetown where they had recently buried over a hundred Ebola victims while the official count for Ebola deaths for all of Freetown at the time stood at only ten. So, yes, perhaps the number of new cases plateauing could be a good sign, but it is just as likely that the disease is outrunning the affected countries' Ministries of Health ability to even measure its impact, let alone contain it.

Janet D said...

Hmmmm, the following article was published in The Week on 8/30/14. Food for thought:

The Next Pandemic.
Think Ebola is alarming? Scientists expect a much deadlier virus to emerge in the not-distant future.

(Sorry, I still haven't figured out how to hot-link articles from Blogger....perhaps Chris can enlighten me!)

And then I saw on CNN today that the Marburg virus has broken out in Uganda (Marburg is, apparently, Ebola-like).

I think at least one of those horsemen is mounted and fully galloping now.

queeniemusic said...

Thomas Eric Duncan, the man also known as the US's Ebola Patient Zero, died today. RIP.

Laylah said...

@Stephen per the WHO, we're past the 8,000 mark now:

Raymond Duckling said...


About the increase in suspected ebola case count. I think what you are describing is an anomaly/limitation in the measuring process, rather than in the dissemination of disease itself. I have been following the WHO page since August, and the trend is roughly 2-3% daily growth for suspected cases. Confirmed cases growth has been falling behind in the last weeks, and now it is about 1.5%, but this is consistent with a saturated healthcare system that is working at or near capacity. I expect the tendency to turn linear, at least until the next infection gets a foothold in a new country with an intact healthcare system.

Around September 15th, there was a big bulge in statistics, but I think it was more a matter of correction for previous under-reporting. Measurement is never an exact process and, since it depends on cooperation between different entities, any particular data point may give you only very coarse reflection of reality. But the trend over time is closer (though may be subject to it's own set of biases).

Unknown said...

Since you brought up the buffalo . . .

I wonder what JMG and others think about Allan Savory and other people I'll call soil scientists (for lack of a better term) belief that our best way to reverse carbon levels is through the soil? They believe it can happen rapidly, at ridiculously low cost compared to other schemes for lowering emissions and the accompanying benefits are worth it all on their own.

For Savory, it's using biomimicry of large herbivore herd behavior grazing in pastures, allowing the plants to fully recover until the herbivores (cows, bison, etc.) return again to graze. For the more plant-based, it's non-chemical agriculture and adding more biomass to feed the enormous amount of bacteria and fungi that could be in living soils.

I've been completely fascinated by this since I heard about it 5 years ago or so, and its potential to restore a verdant earth, but there are a lot of naysayers.

What do others think?

James said...

Re: 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.
Tall grass prairie wasn't bleak; nor were the short grass great plains. On the contrary. Bleak is what occurred after the Europeans came and turned nomadic steppes into agricultural "cozy" farms. The phrase reflects a common prejudice in favor of "civilization" as understood by settled peoples.

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