The boiling frog of ecological collapse

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The Netherlands is a country polluted by large amounts of nitrogen. The nitrogen enters our soils, because we have cattle, pigs and other animals, that eat food imported from abroad, while their manure enters our environment. If you introduce biomass from all over the world, that you then turn into manure in a very small part of the world, you’re going to change the environment there: More nitrogen will enter the soils than can leave the soils, the natural cycle is disrupted. Cars also play a role in this as they also emit nitrogen compounds, but the main source is animal husbandry.

It’s not a very hard principle to understand, but of course people deny it. Human beings have a psychological immune system, it blocks them from recognizing their own responsibility for their actions. So what people will generally say instead is that “nitrogen is plant food”, or that “farmers produce our food” and all sorts of other irrelevant nonsense. People would rather just not see the problem.

Part of the problem is that human beings have a short lifespan, during which they don’t pay much attention to their surroundings. If people lived for 200 years, ecological problems would be far more obvious to us. I’ll give you a simple example.

Butterflies lay eggs, that turn into caterpillars. The caterpillars eat from the plant, until they turn into cocoons. The butterflies are however rather picky: Plants don’t want to be eaten, so they produce toxins that many insects can’t handle, so most butterflies end up with a handful of species of plants for which they are specialized. If these plants go extinct, the butterflies will die out with them.

Here you see the Alcon blue. To reproduce, it needs to deposit its eggs on the marsh gentian. Then the caterpillar eats its way through the plant, until it drops onto the ground. On the ground it waits for ants to show up to come pick it up, who will take it to their nest. The ants are fooled into think the caterpillar is a member of their species, because its secretions resemble their own secretions. They take care of the caterpillar, until it turns into a cocoon, which eventually becomes a butterfly that escapes from the ants.

In other words you’ll need both the ants and the marsh gentian, the blue flower, for this butterfly to survive. Here you can see the eggs on the flower:

This plant requires a slightly acidic wet soil. Because of the excessive nitrogen in the soil, this plant is dying out in the Netherlands and Belgium. As this plant dies out, the butterfly that depends on this plant for its survival dies out as well. There was a subspecies of this butterfly unique to our country, but it already went extinct.

This is the general pattern we see in the Netherlands: Most rarer species of butterfly are going extinct. There are about four butterflies you see everywhere in this country, I’m going to show the most commonly observed four species to you.

This one, Pieris rapae, is called “klein koolwitje” in Dutch.

This is Vanessa atalanta, the “red admiral” in English.

This is the peacock butterfly, Aglais io.

And finally, here is number four, the common brimstone, Gonepteryx rhamni:

These are the four species you see everywhere. So now we’re going to look at an important question: On what sort of plants do these four species lay their eggs?

Here’s the answer:

Pieris rapae – Cabbages

Vanessa atalanta – Stinging nettles

Aglais io – Stinging nettles

Gonepteryx rhamni – buckthorn

In fact, if you look at the top ten of most spotted butterfly species in the Netherlands, you’ll find that about half lay their eggs on one plant alone: The stinging nettle. The stinging nettle is the main butterfly host now, because it grows everywhere. It grows everywhere, because it is a plant that is perfectly adapted to use a soil that has far too much nitrogen in it.

If you look at butterflies in the Netherlands, you’ll find a collapse in species that depend on plants that require less nitrogen. On the other hand, the handful of species that depend on stinging nettles are doing fine.

So what does all of this mean? It means an 84% decline in butterfly numbers in the Netherlands between 1890 and 2017. And the real collapse is worse, because as I just explained, the overall collapse masks the collapse in diversity: Many species have simply disappeared from this country altogether.

Take a look at this, evolution of butterflies over the past thirty years in the Netherlands:

You see three categories: Butterflies that lay their eggs on plants that want little nitrogen, plants that want some nitrogen and plants that like a lot of nitrogen. What you see is that the decline of butterflies is most severe among those species that lay their eggs on plants that don’t need a lot of nitrogen.

The reason this can happen of course, is that most Dutch people have a very elementary basic understanding of nature. The Dutch liberal party used to have slogans that say “a cow in a meadow is nature too” and you’ll find most Dutch boomers nodding agreeably to this sentiment. They don’t realize that these cows poison the landscape, or that pesticides are used to remove any plants that might disturb the cows so that only grass can grow.

And similarly, Dutch people are not concerned by the decline in biodiversity, because they generally just don’t bother observing it and their limited lifespan means they don’t understand that this situation they live in is not normal: They don’t realize that it’s weird that they’re used to just seeing four or five species of butterflies everywhere, most of which all depend on stinging nettles to lay their eggs.

It’s the proverbial frog in the boiling pot of water. The decline began before you were born, it will continue after your death and because it happens gradually, you never really notice. You never think to yourself “this is weird” or “something isn’t right here”, because you’re not even aware of how things are supposed to function.

And so, whenever someone like me points out to you that what we’re doing is not normal, that our way of life damages our planet, people tend to get angry. If you import soybeans and other junk from around the world and feed it all to animals living in a tiny strip of land in the Netherlands, you ruin our soil. If you take fossil fuels that were stored beneath our feet over a period of millions of years and burn them in a couple of decades, you ruin our atmosphere. It’s really not a far fetched concept, it shouldn’t be controversial, but people just refuse to accept that this is really happening, that our way of life has consequences.

And of course human beings have a choice. We can choose whether we want to take care of the ecosystems we inhabit, or whether we wish to annihilate them for our own selfish needs. It’s not that hard. We could have said to ourselves: “This tiny strip of land near the North sea should not be turned into a giant concentration camp for animals that are fed soybeans from Brazil”. That’s unfortunately not what we did, we wrecked this place to earn money.

And so, I feel like taking a look at this famous video:

When Greta says that entire ecosystems are collapsing and we are in the beginning of a mass extinction, do you think she is wrong? People just responded by making fun of her, because people with Asperger’s don’t automatically adjust to social norms.

And so a few weeks after everyone laughed at her and business as usual continued, a new virus somehow emerged in Wuhan. And then, all of a sudden, everything that had been unthinkable to save our planet, was implemented within days, to save our own skin. Suddenly the sky was free of airplanes. Suddenly we began to make the cut in carbon emissions necessary to keep this planet habitable. And it happened, with about 90% approval from the general public.

But I honestly think, looking back at this video, that you’re looking at an event of metaphysical significance. A teenage girl arrives on stage to tell you that your way of life has to change, as the whole living world is collapsing under your weight. You laugh at her. And then within weeks, a new virus begins to spread.

It’s decimating the Western world’s population, there have been 18 million excess deaths around the world so far and more virulent strains are continuously emerging. In Scotland, one in eleven people now seem to be infected with this virus, despite 97% of the Scottish elderly having received three shots. Every infection from this virus kills some of your T-cells, the very cells your body needs to fight off this virus.

Remember the warning this mysterious oracle gave you:

Change is coming, whether you like it or not.

 

 

20 Comments

  1. Hi Radagast,

    I must admit, that I am guilty of thinking, that “it cannot be that bad”. Mainly, because most stuff is still running rather smoothly. Changes are not occuring that fast as you described.

    Still, I cannot just close my eyes and pretend, that 20 years earlier, there wasn’t way more snow in winter, than there is today. It’s a fact. There was way more snow.

    Yes, changes are happening to the climate, but I a not convinced, that this will change to the negative. To a point, where there is no turning back.

    It’s not your job to convince me. I love to read about other perspectives. Maybe I will make up my mind some day. It’s not that I want to destroy our environment. I would like to see a positive change. I am not against it. It’s just, that I think, we still have a lot of time to have a positive impact on this planet. Maybe I am wrong?

    Despite having a different opinion, I still love to read your blog.

    Keep it up,
    Some random guy

  2. Technological advancement has enabled exponential growth in world population. We should be more concerned with sustainable level of world population. All the problems you mentioned will not be present if we have a population that is 90% smaller.

  3. OK so basically this just means that you’ve fallen for the climate change narrative. No, don’t get me wrong – consequences for actions are a thing. But you’re just operating on the assumption that the official story on CO2 is correct, and that if people criticise it, it’s because they have a “psychological immune system”. That’s an extremely weak and lazy position. Especially since the only thing consistent with the climate change forecasts is that they were always wrong, and usually by a large margin.

    Also I don’t really get the alarmism. If we already have so much CO2 in the atmosphere that there is heating every year, then what’s the purpose of collapsing society just to save a few tons of CO2? Ok so maybe we reduce our output by 50% and dump 1 ppm into the atmosphere instead of 2 ppm every year. Big fucking deal.

    Burning oil that has been underground for a while doesn’t automatically result in a ruined climate. It makes you sound like a wise god to say that. “Stupid humans, they should have known that their actions have consequences.” But the truth is you don’t understand the first thing about the physics that are involved with the climate. Scientists today have no idea how the upper atmospheres influence the climate, whether clouds heat or cool or what the effect of sea currents is. So please spare us your arrogant nonsense.

    Obviously I’m with you 100% on animal factories and cheap, chemically-enhanced meat. That’s a travesty, and nothing else. Have you heard about PFAS? Fucking ridiculous.

  4. There is a very fine line between wishing to save the planet/nature and a presumptuous hubris that one understands all the messy and interlocking natural processes better than Gaia herself. Perhaps She has greater plans than your idiosyncratic notion of how “things should be” can comprehend?

  5. No offense, Rintrah, but the focus on climate change (a focus you share and promote) is one of the reasons WHY environmentally-conscious people can’t address things like excessive nitrogen in our soils. Environmentalism used to focus on preventing the poisoning of the environment with toxins, poisons, etc. Now it focuses, to the exclusion of everything else, on jaw-boning ineffectively about reducing emissions of carbon dioxide, an inert gas. The obsession with Catastrophic Antropogenic Global Warming has been a Godsend for big corporate (and gov/military) polluters. It reminds me of the Don’t Be a Litterbug campaigns of the 1970s. Turns out they were sponsored by big polluters who wanted to shift blame away from big polluters and onto individual consumers.

  6. On the topic of “Human beings have a psychological immune system”
    you might want to read this article:

    https://un-denial.com/2019/10/22/ajit-varki-our-only-hope-is-legitimate-fear-mongering/

    Unfortunately denial is bred into humans.
    Ths blog has a lot of material on the topic of denial.
    We are all in this, no? May you learn and make a wise decision.

    “Sapience” is a human trait as well.
    Somebody looking at the sapience topic is:
    George Monbiot who has written many books about systems theory.
    His Blog is here:
    https://questioneverything.typepad.com/
    Unfortunately he has given up on blogging as well as a lot of other guys.

    We can not fight a war where there is no enemy.
    A Problem that does not exist can not be solved.

    We are in a very bad position for solving our problems!
    Agenda 2030 and The Great Reset is much better positioned!

    We need to engage in a discussion of “getting by with less”
    that is exactly what the WEF and Agenda 2030 is about but the people fighting it have no different proposal!!!

    For the topic of “stakeholder economy” I propose

    https://participatoryeconomy.org

    A participatory economy that uses digital means as the stakeholders but

    WE THE PEOPLE

    would run it…

  7. There is no way whatsoever to solve any problem in this world because people are being paid for “solving” these problems and they simply do not want to loose their jobs.

  8. Yes, Mr. Schwab, you are perfectly right.
    We need a new society or in your terms a “new social contract”.

    What I will deliver for this is:

    “Eat and sleep”

    You are welcome to ask for other things, but probably I will just

    “Eat and sleep”

    So you may want to search for people to create the 4IR that are not just sleeping or eating.

    I wish you great success.

  9. In the long run, humans will die out and the animal and insect diversity will come back. Our time frame is not the universe’s time frame. I lead an environmentally friendly life because I care about the pleasures and pains of individual nonhuman animals and so so I don’t want to destroy their habitats. I think moving a garbage can and squashing bugs thereby is a horror. But humans will do what they will do. A single poisoned field in the Netherlands, or a single American McMansion, is enough to demonstrate what our species is. I understand this in religious terms – that there are evil spirits – but you could psychologize instead if you want.

    • Anybody that bulldozes everything you own will be deemed much more succesful than you ever were.
      You just left out for somebody else to take.

      The question is not about “evil” spirits or righteousness, the question is about a bloodline that exists and a bloodline that is terminated.

      From historic perspective everything that is destroyed is permanent aka sucessful.
      Whatever you think in your childish ideas about love and happiness is just 15 mins of bulldozing away from deletion for eternity.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AGIN_Hia-UU

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_5tTbXAQ4uA

      Let’s build back better!

  10. “But I honestly think, looking back at this video, that you’re looking at an event of metaphysical significance.”

    In 2018, an important book has been published:

    Our House Is on Fire: Scenes of a Family and a Planet in Crisis (Translation in 2020).

    I’d like to recommend this book: Read it very carefully.

    This book “Our House Is on Fire” has been written mainly by Malena Ernman, the mother of Greta Thunberg (indicated in the Preface of the book). To give a feel for the approach of this author Malena:

    Svante Thunberg, the father of Greta, is cited saying: ‘I don’t talk to my neighbours. I can’t even bear to talk with my friends or my own parents any more.’ (Scene 72: The Long Way Home)

    Savante suffers a social anxiety disorder. And the author Malena (as well as the publisher) thinks it appropriate that readers all over the world get to hear of this sad fact about her husband. This is indicative of the whole approach of the author and wife.

    Malena makes sure that the reader is in the know about her own neuroses and compulsive acts. For instance, she writes:

    “If I’m working in Stockholm [she works as a prima donna in opera] I usually get away before [!] the audience and remove my make-up on [!] my bicycle ride home.” (Scene 15: Virtue-signalling Junkies)

    These are personal details every reader should talk about. The overall approach of the author Malena is self-important, not to say exhibitionistic.

    Maybe the book of Malena is the earliest evidence of the so-called Thunberg syndrome. This syndrome can be framed by two complemantary questions:

    a) What have two parents to accomplish in order to fail to recognize that they are mentally disturbed and that they derange their own two children?
    b) What have two children to accomplish in order to fail to recognize that they are mentally disturbed and that they are deranged by their own parents?

    The so-called Thunberg syndrome provides the answer: The task is solved by a certain kind of cooperation of parents and their children. Both invent a kind of mission that masks the madness of the family, and that rationalizes all insanity that cannot be masked. In order to keep this illusion alive, parents and children engange in their mission and etablish a public cult. Parents and children have to celebrate this cult for the rest of their lifes – otherwise they will discover that they are just a pathological family.

    And these deranged people are exploited by the mass media and by the politicians. Result: an international crusade against global heating.

    Read this whole book carefully. Very revealing. And then look all the videos of Greta.

  11. Thank you for that very interesting data, Jochen.

    I do believe it goes some way to illuminating the perplexing contradictions of our host.

    Some would say Rintrah has done too many drugs.

    I would suggest the opposite: he hasn’t done ENOUGH drugs, or at least the right ones, in sufficient doses.

    I notice he like to play footsies with Salvia.

    Wading into the shallow pool, Rintrah?

    I’ve know a couple people like that.

    Awful people.

  12. I don’t know about the Netherlands but in the US most excess nitrogen is due to over fertilization of cropland. Why the hangup with animal husbandry?

  13. Radagast, as a person who understands nature, biology and ecology on intimate level, you should be aware of the natural progression of a specie. What we as specie are doing it is the natural flow of things. We will inevitably ovetshoot related to our environment and than collapse be it in 50 or 500 or 5000 years. Our actions are irrelevant to the nature as nature always has the last word. When we reach the point of no return our specie related ecosystems will collapse and after that enter state of succesion which would not include the specie which overshot (us). Nature’s favourite tool is creative destruction it seems and we are not special and thus this tool will be applied to us, too. We are perhaps emotionally attached to the current iteration of the planetary environment and see the incomming collapse as bad thing but from Nature’s point of view we are just yet another permutation state which will be succeded by another one and so on.

    • Call it Ego but as far as I know something like you and me never happened here before and for some reason, we evolved to be here.
      I can accept that I may just be another useless being doing useless things as typing here.
      Molluscas
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mollusca
      have somehow managed to live on this planet for about 400 Mio years.
      If I were a sapient being I would bet on: I can make it even longer.

      Otherwise sapience was just another dead end road.
      Could be but in my humble opinion we are much smarter than selecting the dead end road.
      I might ask if you just want to call for an excuse here…

      • I am just lying out the basic ecological laws. Being intelligent specie doea not factor in those laws in the long term. The more complex the specie the shorter its existence. Apex predators (human specie) are at the top of the energy pyramid (the nexus on the energy network) and they do not have structural importance for the ecosystem. When ecosystems fail the consumers at the top/center are the first to go as they do not produce but only consume. You see, what keeps ecosystems is not consumers but producers.
        As for your example of molluscs, it is irrelevant and categorically different from the case of intelligent apex predators (humans). I know the topic is sensitive and pretty daek but it is what it is.

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The patients in the mental ward have had their daily dose of xanax and calmed down it seems, so most of your comments should be automatically posted again. Try not to annoy me with your low IQ low status white male theories about the Nazi gas chambers being fake or CO2 being harmless plant food and we can all get along. Have fun!

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