( note from Jim: yesterday's article on canning butter has been amended. Idaho Homesteader raised valid safety concerns. Read her comment at the article )
Hope is seldom more than a sliver as the stage darkens.
But there may always be a sliver of hope even if it is just hope of being able to say you were right at the very end- but I doubt the ‘very end’ will give any of us the final word, not in the face of current predicaments. Because I doubt current predicaments will kill off the whole race. Maybe 99% of the race, but even 1% of 10 billion is still 100 million. And I doubt that we will fall below .01% which is still more than an order of magnitude greater than the last close call with extinction that we nearly reached in prehistory.
Here is my rationale -
No single factor of industrial civilization collapse, especially in a stair step style collapse, will cause the extinction of the human species. At least absent deliberate attempt and racial suicide including themselves by some nation ruling elite. There may only be thousands of our race left, but some are likely to survive. Most ruling elite have no more desire to commit suicide than most of us (probably less). Ipso Facto human extinction from human causes is very unlikely. Massive depopulation because of human stupidity and overshoot, is on the other hand, VERY likely in the near to moderate run (decades to centuries) but depopulation is not extinction unless it reaches 100%.
Some of the human extinction threats that are overblown:
Radiation - less of threat than most people think. Plenty of people near Hiroshima, Chernobyl, etc., lived long enough to have kids, grandkids, and even great grandkids. Sure lives were shorter and less healthy, and birth defects increased, but nothing that humans can’t deal with. Also the most dangerous radiations are time and place limited -a few hundred years and our descendants will be able to live only dozens of miles from the worst effected spots – unhealthy with lots of birth defects and dying of cancer at 40 perhaps, but still living long enough to procreate.
Chemical pollutions - Probably more of a real threat than radiation and possibly a longer lived threat, but just as with radiation, the threat is not an extinction level concern without deliberate assistance from human beings.
Biological agents - Disease is much more a threat to human extinction but there are plenty of small tribes scattered over the world that only have very intermittent contact with the rest of the world, tribes in tropical jungles and tundra herdsmen, etc. Unless humans are again, deliberately spreading plague to everyone, plague won’t get to everyone until it begins evolving to less deadly strains.
Climate change – Humans survived ice ages and life has survived all but the worst of the maximum forecast temperature increase, humans have lived in almost every biome with the most primitive of technologies, why should that change? Sure billions will die in a worst case scenario – but we have a population of billions, it only takes a few tens of thousands to have the necessary genetic diversity to prevent outright extinction (and modern transport has helped increase genetic diversity massively in every corner of the globe). Probably another miserable existence as compared to our current luxury but not extinction causing.
Starvation – come on, same issue as any of the above, there are little scattered pockets of humans who live mostly/completely off the locally available resources. And at an extreme, human will prey upon other humans aka: long pork, soylent green, etc. so there will be survivors up until the natural biome has had a decently long while to re-adjust to whatever conditions caused the initial starvation – and humans will be adapting to eat whatever is available, even if it is merely lichens, cockroaches and rats.
And once any one aspect of industrial civilization collapse has trimmed a significant proportion of the excess population it makes the pressures of other human extinction events exacerbated by our population overshoot that much less likely and less proportionately severe.
In my judgement the human race will survive as long as vertebra life on earth can survive short of deliberate suicide by EVERYONE. 7 of the 8 continents, and many, many, islands of the planet have a self-sustaining year round population of humans, and Antarctica may become nominally habitable due to climate change.
A few extreme acts of nature beyond human control (such as major astronomical events) might destroy mammalian life on earth, but short of that human extinction is unlikely.
If I am wrong I will pay out enough that you can bury my body. Oooh, but if you are burying my body then you are still alive and I haven’t yet been proven wrong….
Which brings up a good point, acceptance of the possibility of one’s own demise should not mean that one behaves unnecessarily suicidal; the same is true for the extinction of your tribe or species. One should do ones best to preserve the best and most important parts one can in every case, and prepare to do so no matter what.
So what is good or worthwhile about you? What about your family, friends, community, nation, civilization, species, kingdom, phylum, etc.? Is there nothing worth saving at any of those levels? If you can’t see anything at any of those levels worth saving, I admit that it might be best for you as an individual to remove your contribution and self from our world and recycle the nutrients in your body back to nature. But if there is anything worthwhile at any of those levels that CAN be saved against any sort of future you can envision then you should dedicate yourself to saving those worthwhile things. I think I, my family, my friends, my communities, my nation, this civilization, and our species all have some worthwhile things that make them worth saving – so I work to provide the best chance possible for each of these worthwhile things that I can provide in various ways. Despairing will only excuse a lack of attempt.