Seven Worlds, One Planet, BBC 1, BBC iPlayer, narrator David Attenborough.

There are countless wildlife programmes way back to the mists of time, but there’s only one David Attenborough. He’s the gold standard of natural history and been doing it a very long time. There he is onscreen, popping up in Borneo in 1964, when it was mostly jungle, now it’s not. There are wildlife sanctuaries instead, as soon as you say that you know something has gone drastically wrong.

Here we have it, Seven Worlds, One Planet, has a didactic purpose. Tarzan might have been king of the jungle, but it was Attenborough’s clout and pictures of a whale losing its baby because of plastic bags that led to revolution at home. Plastic bag use is shops is down something like 98% and that’s the Attenborough effect. What he’s telling us now is global warming is killing us, killing the planet and killing the wildlife we are meant to protect.

We can’t because Malthus was right and the clock’s ticking. Mankind scores high in every score in Robert Hare’s Psycopathy Checklist (Revised).

‘Glibness’. In Asia, walruses like to rest on ice, but when there’s none they need to rest on rock.  The problem is congestion. On the Siberian costs tens of thousands of walruses scramble up cliffs and rocks to get a space. Most of them weight a ton, literally and aren’t designed for hard landings. Polar bears find them easy pickings on land. A rare event, polar bears and walruses congregating together becomes the new normal. We can glibly say, ‘It’s only a walrus’. Until there were none.

‘Grandiose sense of self-worth.’ God above, man below, the steward of all. Aye, right. God can just fuck off. Because we’re the real deal. We’ll do what we want, when we want because we are God. Animals are there to be ate.

‘Need for stimulation’. This reminds me of when the great race was on to cover America in train tracks. Just for fun passengers used to get on a train, stick a rifle out the window and shoot buffalo.

‘Pathological lying’. See moron’s moron in the Whitehouse as basic role model for it wasnae me and if it was, it still wisnae me. David Attenborough is trying to bring a bit of sense into the argument. He’s talking eons, when what is now India collided with the Himalayas pushing them up five miles, above the clouds, creating snowfall and microclimates. Nobody’s listening, we’re too busy telling lies.

‘Manipulation’. The Paris Agreement in December 2015, 195 countries adopted the first ever, legally-binding, global climate reduction deal. The biggest fossil fuel debtor walked away, said there was no such thing as global warming. See moron’s moron above.

‘Lack of remorse’. When the last Sumatran rhino dies and we no longer hear its jungle song, will we care? I think not. See ‘Glibness’.

‘Shallow affect’. No crocodile tears, no tears at all. No crocodiles. Our emotions are skin deep.

‘Lack of empathy’. Empathy is usually described as putting yourself in another’s shoes. Bit clichéd. Attenborough tries to make us care by showing large-eyed baby orangutans clinging to their mother and climbing the tallest trees to get the best food. He tries to humanise them. See ‘Lack of remorse’.

‘Parasitic lifestyle’.  In The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, his boss CJ always ended his monologue with a story ‘I didn’t  get where I am today…’ Mankind is the world’s greatest parasite. There’s around 7.6 billion of us. Rising to 10 billion, soonish. But we account for only 0.01% of all species but have destroyed around 83% of all mammals and 50% of all plants, from fungi to fish we’re in the dock.

‘Poor behavioural controls’ Poor behaviour is mandatory around animals, plants, fungi and fish. Any kind of red tape is anathema to us. See moron’s morons ripping up almost 100 years of incremental improvements in taking care of the environment. I’m proud to say John Muir was Scottish. He was ‘Father of the National Parks’ in America. The moron’s moron has a smidgen of Scottish blood in his veins, but there the link ends.

‘Promiscuous sexual behaviour’.  Out on the desert-like Indian plateaus garishly coloured lizards fight for the right to have sex. Mankind doesn’t do much fighting for sex, but we do a lot of procreating. See ‘Parasitic lifestyle’.  

‘Early behavioural problems’. Man has always been a killer. Mass genocide of the American Indian, the aboriginal Australians and the murder and enslavement of black Africans is just a taster.

‘Lack of realistic, long-term goals’. We agreed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Then we didn’t. We disagreed about agreeing and up the ante to 2 degrees Celsius. See runaway global warming – it’s not going to wait.

‘Impulsivity’. Mankind isn’t impulsive. We just do what we want, when we want. Other species can also be red-blooded and impulsive, but usually it’s tied to a short-term goal. See ‘Lack of realistic, long-term goals’.

‘Irresponsibility’. Science is a noun and a verb. A body of knowledge and a methodology. Only man has the language of how stupid and irresponsible we are. We face planetary disaster yet we’d much rather the world burns than change. Science tells us this is going to happen. See ‘Impulsivity’.

‘Failure to accept responsibility for our own actions.’ In the frozen Kamchaka peninsula, brown bears waking after hibernation seek out active volcanoes. Mankind does that too, see moron’s moron.

‘Short-term marital relationships.’ Mankind is pretty good at that and we’re getting better. The moron’s moron’s only been married three times. One of them might be fake news. See ‘Parasitic lifestyle’.

‘Juvenile delinquency’. Mankind has had two global conflicts. The third one really will be apocalyptic. When nations fight for enough water to feed themselves, when every stream and river becomes a conflict zone and those higher up the pecking order control the waters of those below (see the Ganges river, for example) then juvenile delinquency really could come to blows.

‘Revocation of conditional release’.  Yeh, the Paris Agreement of 2015 was ratified, but in 2018 the perennial re-offender and moron’s moron walked away. He’s still on parole. Let’s hope it’s prison time for him, personally, soon.

‘Criminal versatility.’ Mankind has committed every kind of crime against our planet I’m tempted to start spouting like Donald Rumsfeld about ‘the known knowns’, ‘the known unknowns’ and the ‘unknown unknowns’.

Only David Attenborough can explain what we’ve done to our Blue Planet. We massacring it with criminal abandon. That’s the didactic element of Seven Worlds, One Planet. Some known known is sure to complain about a waste of taxpayer’s money. See Grandiose Sense of Self Worth, but watch Attenborough and learn. Mankind scores 20 out of 20 on the Psychopathy Checklist. We are not to be trusted. We fuel not only our own doom, but mass species extinction and we blame somebody else.  There’ll be no walking away this time. No Seven Worlds. No nothing.      

whose party is it in 2018 anyway, Willow?

baby kerr.jpg

To my niece Willow, I was born on the 10th December 1962. Fifty-five years ago not only was my mum Jean alive, but she had given birth and was nursing me back to health somewhere in darkest Braeholm. I wasn’t expected to live. I don’t remember the reasons why.  Yeh, we showed them mum. What we showed them I’m not really sure. I’m nearer death than birth now. Life is the miracle. And I’m not likely to forget you birthday, Willow. It’s also the 10th December.  And as the Bible, book of Timothy, suggests ‘We brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it’.

So baby Willow, I’m 55 years older than you, let’s play a game in which you sit wherever you are in 55 years’ time and look back and tell me what the world looks like. I don’t remember any of this but we had the Cuban Missile Crisis and later the assassination of the President John F Kennedy. I’m hoping you don’t remember President Donald J Trump. Shakespeare knew his villains intimately. He portrayed Richard of Gloucester  as ‘the bottled spider’, vainglorious, treacherous, ruthless murderer and usurper, but nobody’s fool. President Donald J Trump is everybody’s fool. His claim to fame is dropping ‘the mother of all bombs’ in Afghanistan and taking money from poor people and giving it to the rich. I’m not sure why bombs are called mothers. But I hope Willow you see your fifth birthday. Like me, I hope you sleep securely through threats of Armageddon and nuclear winter and the world keeps turning.

Prospero and Brave New World and the closer we get to utopia the closer we get to dystopia is something you’re going to have to live with Willow.  George Orwell, I guess got it nearly right with his three shifting blocs. The axis of the world is shifting and I’d guess China is where America was before the start of the First World War. Perhaps there will be a transition, such as Fritz Laing’s Metropolis, but the future is one in which we are equal but some are more equal than others. Deep machine learning and the use of pattern recognition software will serve your needs before you know what they are. Your body will no longer be your own. Behaviour will be monitored.  Healthy and wealthy will be conflated into flawless new bodies and flawless new babies in smart cities.

‘Hoist with his own petard.’ I’m of average intelligence and can guess what that means. I google it and see it’s from Hamlet.  But intelligence will no longer have any meaning. Machine learning how to play the game ‘Go’ shows it is possible to beat intuition as it is possible to surpass the logic of the best human chess players. Machines will be connected to other machines and humans will be part of that loop. Just as the Wright brothers took off in their flimsy craft, flew and crashed it was possible to predict air flight, quantum machines no longer need to play humans to master the precepts of ‘Go’. Machines play themselves and work out first principles. When, and if, deep learning machines master the problem of consciousness then humans need no longer be in the loop. That’s a different kind of Armageddon.

Willow, what we do know for sure is machines will do most, if not all, of the work we take for granted. How many angels fit on a pinhead? How many doctorates can fit on a subatomic particle? Masters of pattern recognition predict the future and make it happen. Energy usage will be the only transferable currency. All that green crap, waves, wind, water and sun will be the stopgap until the machines figure out something better. Nature will be a treasure trove of a different kind. Picked apart for its lessons and reconstructed. The sea will be harvested as the earth has been.

‘Gentleman, it’s your duty to make yourself rich!’ says one of Anthony Trollope’s characters in The Way We Live Now. It’s your duty to make everyone else poor. Make the world warmer and vast tracts of land uninhabitable. That’s not what Trollope said, but we’ve had our Silent Spring moment with Trump’s refusal to sign the Paris Accord and Global Warming Agreement on fossil fuels. No one can make the super rich do what they want to do. Monopoly holders of data work by their own rules.

But the problem of making everyone else poor, with no work and no surplus value, as they’d say in Marxist ideology is when everyone’s poor and wealth accumulates with the super rich as Thomas Picketty showed in his constant rate of return in his model of Capitalism is stagnation. Not enough money to buy all these surplus goods. But, of course, there’ll be no money. Not as a store of value, but as a shifting energy equation, this will be related to land use and global warming. The problem will be how to find new ways of punishing the poor for being poor.

What is materially damaging to the rich will in an Orwellian way be regarded as an attack on equality of accord.  But I lack the scrivener’s art, the means to look into the future Willow. When I was growing up in the 1970s I never imagined the internet, but neither did I imagine Britain regressing to a state where the poor need to go to a church hall to get food to last them a few days, nor that so many children would be living in sub-standard housing and poverty. Four in ten children. I expected things to get better and I hope you’re not one of them. Outside this shiny vision of the end of scarcity is a dystopian vision. When poverty because a digital country and not an economic and social relationship then that’s where we’ll all live and only the rich will float above it.  We come into the world with nothing. We go out of the world with nothing, Willow it is compassion which makes us fully human. Live in the here and now and not in a simulation of now. That’s a different kind of Armageddon. The church my mum brought me up in called it limbo. It was a sin to be truely selfish.  Put yourself out on a limb, Willow. Dare to be you and not a slice of identifiable code.