Carbon dioxide removal: the other solution to the climate crisis

cleaning up carbon dioxide

While the world struggles to end greenhouse gas pollution, a handful of innovators are developing ways to clean it up. Their efforts could reverse climate change.

The atmosphere is a true marvel of physics and engineering. Oxygen and ozone prevent dangerous, high frequency gamma, x-ray and ultraviolet radiation from reaching the earth’s surface. Nitrogen and oxygen meanwhile block harmful, fast-moving cosmic rays from deep space. However, the atmosphere allows the visible, life-giving frequencies of sunlight to pass through a kind of window. The sunlight is absorbed by the earth’s surface and beamed outward as infrared radiation, or heat.

Atmospheric transparency to electromagnetic radiation
Atmospheric transparency to various wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation. Click to enlarge. Image source: NASA

While providing a protective shield, the atmosphere also maintains temperatures ideal for life. Carbon dioxide, water vapor and methane absorb and disperse the heat radiating from the earth’s surface. This produces the so-called “greenhouse effect”. Without these naturally occurring heat trapping gases, average global temperatures would be about 30 °C colder.

Increasingly, the greenhouse gases (GHGs) produced by human activity are amplifying the heat-trapping properties of the atmosphere, with the now-familiar apocalyptic symptoms: frequent extreme storms, widespread severe drought, wildfire of unprecedented scale, rapidly melting glaciation, and rising sea levels.

The cause and effect of greenhouse gas pollution has become so obvious that the climate crisis can now be summarized in stark terms: Greenhouse gas pollution is dangerously warming the atmosphere. The appropriate response now seems equally obvious: Stop greenhouse gas pollution. Clean it up.

silver bullet

Ways and means

Until recently, the international response to climate change has focused on stopping GHG pollution. Those efforts continue to move along three basic pathways: replacing machinery that burns fossil fuels with devices that run on electricity or zero carbon energy such as wind, solar and geothermal; discontinuing the use of certain industrial chemicals containing fluorine; and reforming land use practices. This has proven to be a complex international undertaking. System change and countless individual actions are required within these spheres of economic activity. Getting all the players in the affected sectors to cooperate in the context of a competitive, bottom-line-oriented world economy is time-consuming. We are likely decades away from a carbon-neutral world if stopping pollution remains the primary goal.

So zero carbon strategies are broadening to include the cleanup of an estimated 1.5 trillion tonnes of carbon dioxide that have accumulated in the atmosphere since the industrial revolution. Compared to eliminating a multitude of GHG sources worldwide, cleanup scenarios are, practically speaking, simple and straightforward: remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, permanently and safely store it, and use some of the CO2 or its derivatives as a valuable industrial material. The politics are simpler too. Removing pollution does not require international cooperation. It has zero disruptive effect on the economic status quo. It’s a wide-open field with no industrial incumbents needing to be replaced or shut down. A handful of technologies deployed globally by well-funded public or private organizations could do the job.

Carbon dioxide pollution accounts for about 75 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. It is also the only greenhouse gas for which there are proven methods of removal. These methods are categorized by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as “negative emissions”, or carbon dioxide removal (CDR). Distinct from removing CO2 from the flue gas of an industrial plant, CDR removes carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere. This can be achieved by direct air capture (DAC) technologies and by the enhancement of natural carbon sinks such as soils and surface geology. The captured CO2 can be stored in geological formations, sold to fizzy drink makers, or broken down into oxygen gas and solid carbon, a valuable industrial material.

Carbon dioxide removal is a pragmatic and perhaps overdue shift in climate change thinking and strategy. In an article published in Issues in Science and Technology, Dr. Klaus Lackner and Christophe Jospe re-frame climate change as a waste management problem. “Carbon dioxide emissions represent the metabolic by-product of industrial activities on which billions of people depend to survive and thrive. Now we must learn to safely dispose of this by-product,” they write. While Lackner and Jospe stop short of calling CDR a panacea, they do identify its key role in eliminating greenhouse gas pollution.

Arizona State University’s Klaus Lackner discusses removing CO2 from the atmosphere.

“Direct air capture will not be a silver bullet that all by itself stops climate change, but it has many assets that can directly address some of the key obstacles to technical, political, and economic progress on climate change,” they write. The scalability and relative simplicity of DAC could ensure that “whatever goes into the atmosphere also comes out, no matter how difficult it is to reduce emissions from particular technologies or sectors, such as transportation. Direct air capture with carbon storage can also, if necessary, lower the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere much faster than natural processes would.”

Klaus Lackner
Klaus Lackner

Klaus Lackner is the director of the Center for Negative Carbon Emissions at Arizona State University and a pioneer in developing DAC since the mid 1990s. His co-author, Christophe Jospe, is Chief Development Officer at Nori, a Seattle-based company that focuses on carbon storage and usage. Nori treats CO2 as a raw material and connects COsuppliers with CO2 buyers. Storing carbon dioxide will entail significant cost, so treating it as a raw material is crucial. In other words, valuable products, derived from captured CO2, could finance a good part of a global cleanup operation.

Diverse pathways, a single purpose

A number of forward-looking organizations, with financial support from government and private investors, are making carbon dioxide removal a reality using DAC and enhanced mineralization processes. They are using CO2 to make stronger concrete, or using it as a feed stock for ultra strong carbon materials. They are combining CO2 with hydrogen to make synthetic fuel, or sequestering the gas permanently underground.

mechanical trees
Mechanical trees

Silicon Kingdom Holdings, (SKH) based in Dublin, Ireland, is planning to build mechanical tree farms using the capture technology developed by Dr. Lackner. Thousands of times more efficient than natural trees, the devices use anion exchange membranes to remove CO2 from ambient air. A sodium carbonate solution and heat further separate and purify the gas. The CO2 is then pressurized and made available for sequestration or for use in a variety of industrial applications such as synthetic fuels and high strength materials. SKH was established by a group of business and science innovators, including Dr. Lackner, in association with Arizona State University.

Carbon Engineering is making sustainable near-zero-carbon aviation fuel.

Carbon Engineering, based in Squamish, Canada, has designed modular devices that blow ambient air over a capture solution. A closed loop series of chemical processes fixes CO2 and releases it in concentrated form. The firm plans to build full-scale DAC plants to capture a million tonnes of CO2 annually at about $US100 a tonne. The CO2 will be permanently stored underground or combined with hydrogen to make synthetic transportation fuel. Carbon Engineering recently received a $25 million repayable investment from the Government of Canada’s Strategic Innovation Fund and has secured over CA$100 million from private investors including Murray Edwards and Bill Gates. The firm is partnering with 1PointFive in the US and Pale Blue Dot in the UK to finance and build commercial DAC plants.

Climeworks air capture units
Modular air capture units. Image source: Climeworks

Climeworks of Switzerland is operating a demonstration plant near Zurich that can remove 900 metric tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere yearly. Similar to Carbon Engineering’s technology, fans blow CO2 through modular units roughly the size of shipping containers. Filters in the units capture the gas, then release it for collection. A small demonstration plant in Troia, Italy, will collect 150 tonnes of CO2 per year. Similar to Carbon Engineering’s process, the CO2 is combined with hydrogen to produce synthetic fuel.

CarbFix core sample
A core sample from an injection site showing CO2 bearing carbonate minerals in basaltic host rock. Photo: Sandra O Snaebjornsdottir.

Climeworks also permanently sequesters carbon dioxide underground. In 2019, the organization introduced a public removal and sequestration scheme in partnership with Reykjavik Energy of Iceland. Through its subsidiary CarbFix, Reykjavik Energy injects CO2 from a 303 MW geothermal power plant into subsurface basalt rock. The injected CO2 mineralizes into solid carbonate rock in less than two years. The Climeworks website invites individuals and organizations to pay a monthly subscription – in amounts up to €2,000 per month – to help fund the project. For example, €5 per month will sponsor the sequestration of 61 kilograms of CO2 yearly.

Globally, the storage capacity of basalt is immense. The rock composes about 10 percent of the earth’s continental surface area and underlies most of the planet’s ocean floor. The potential mineral uptake of basalt formations is estimated at between 100 and 250 trillion tons – in theory enough to absorb all the excess CO2 in the atmosphere a hundred times over.

CarbonCure uses CO2 to make a higher-strength concrete.

In Halifax, Canada, CarbonCure injects recycled CO2 into cement during the mixing process. The CO2 mineralizes into calcium carbonate and actually strengthens the concrete as it cures. The process permanently fixes CO2 at relatively low cost, and if scaled to the global concrete market, could sequester over 500 megatons of CO2 annually. CarbonCure presently obtains its CO2 from established suppliers such as fertilizer plants and other cement producers. It expects to use CO2 from DAC technologies as they become available. Breakthrough Energy Ventures, established by Bill Gates and a coalition of private investors including Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson, have invested in the company.

Bio-oil by Charm Industrial
Bio-oil destined for sequestration. Source Charm Industrial

In San Francisco, USA, Charm Industrial has a patent pending for a process that produces bio-oil for storage deep underground. Fast pyrolysis converts the carbohydrate compounds in scrap wood, sawdust, and agricultural waste into a stable liquid similar to crude oil. In effect, the company is reversing crude oil extraction and returning carbon to its geological source.

Eric Matzner, co-founder of Project Vesta
Eric Matzner, co-founder of Project Vesta, explains how olivine are used to sequester carbon dioxide. Image sourec: San Francisco Chronicle

Also in San Francisco, Project Vesta, a non-profit venture, captures CO2 by accelerating the natural weathering of rock. Small grains of olivine, an abundant green volcanic mineral, are spread like sand on shallow beach environments. Wave action abrades the olivine, increasing its surface area. In the process, the mineral reacts to atmospheric CO2 and ocean water – the same silicate-to-carbonate chemical reaction as natural weathering. The olivine becomes limestone which collects on the seafloor. Research suggest that applying olivine on just 2 percent of the world’s shallow ocean shelves would remove one year’s worth of annual global CO2 emissions at low cost. A pilot project is underway on a Caribbean beach, but more testing is required to answer questions about safety and viability.

Stripe, the payment software company, has given financial support to Project Vesta, Charm Industrial, Climeworks and Carboncure. Instead of spending money on projects that curtail emissions through carbon offset programs, the company is distributing  US$ 1 million among these four ventures to help remove carbon dioxide from the air.

Turning CO2 into carbon nanofibres. Dr. Stuart Licht at the American Chemical Society

Meanwhile, C2CNT, comprised of a team of researchers and engineers led by Dr. Stuart Licht of George Washington University, is running a demonstration project at a coal-fired electricity generation plant near Edmonton, Canada. The project captures CO2 from flue gas to produce carbon nanotubes. Using electrolysis, the CO2 is split into oxygen and carbon fibres. The fibres can take different forms for different applications. One form, carbon nanotubes, are a hi-tech industrial material used to make aircraft bodies, tennis rackets and other strong lightweight products. The highest quality nanotubes produced by conventional methods can fetch up to $100,000 per kilogram. Another form of carbon, graphene, is suitable for safe, stable sequestration. The C2CNT project is one of 10 finalists in the Carbon Xprize competition awarded US$500,000 to demonstrate technologies that convert CO2 into valuable products. Capital Power, the owner of the generation plant and host of the demonstration project has invested in C2CNT with the aim of removing CO2 from their flue gas.  

A DAC version of the technology would be self-powered using solar thermal and photovoltaic energy. According to Licht’s calculations, full scale deployment in an area about 10 percent the size of the Sahara Desert could reduce atmospheric CO2 concentrations to pre-industrial levels in as little as 10 years.

Technical innovation goes through several stages. Often, it will start in a university lab. It will then attract the interest of private investors. When things begin to take shape, governments will provide grants. There will be a demonstration phase followed by the technology’s entrance into mainstream markets. Once adopted by the marketplace, costs can go down with economies of scale and the development of production efficiencies. The development of DAC has taken that path. The C2CNT project started in a lab at George Washington University and is now working out of the Genesee generating station, near Edmonton, Canada. When Climeworks’ technology became commercially available in 2014, it captured carbon dioxide for about US$600 per tonne. It now expects to bring costs down closer to US$100 per tonne in two or three years. Carbon Engineering appears to have beaten them to the punch. In 2019 it announced that its fully demonstrated DAC technology was capable of capturing and purifying atmospheric carbon dioxide for under US$100 per tonne.

With CDR, investors like Bill Gates may realize that the near-term cost of cleaning up carbon dioxide pollution is the most pragmatic way to avoid the even costlier long-term effects of the pollution. Capital power, meanwhile, has invested in the C2CNT project in order to continue burning coal to generate electricity. It aims to stop CO2 emissions and pay for the cost of doing so by selling high-value carbon nanotubes derived from those emissions.

As we confront the deepening climate crisis, it helps to remember that we are facing a greenhouse gas pollution crisis, or perhaps less dramatically, a waste management challenge. As we meet that challenge by stopping the pollution at source and removing anthropogenic carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, we can expect things to cool down.

Seth speaks about viruses and epidemics

by Seth
(channeled by Jane Roberts, 1977, 1979 & 1980)

As we deal with the covid-19 pandemic, we are driven and guided by partial understanding of viruses and their role in the natural world. Medical science may be able to observe viral structure, but its ability to observe viral behavior is limited. The following material, originating from outside our day-to-day world – and the conventional framework of scientific inquiry – fills in some of the gaps, and suggests that we are not under some kind of random attack from a malignant entity.

Viruses as part of the body’s overall health system
and viruses as biological statements

Viruses serve many purposes, as 1 have said before. The body contains all kinds of viruses, including those considered deadly, but those are usually not only harmless, or inactive, but beneficial to the body’s overall balance.

The body maintains its vitality not only through the physical motion and agility that you perceive, but by microscopic agility, and actions within microseconds, that you do not perceive. There is as much motion, stimulation, and reaction in the interior bodily environment as the body meets through its encounters with the exterior environment. The body must now and then “flush its systems out,” run through its repertoire, raise its temperature, activate its hormonal actions more strongly. In such ways it keeps its system of immunities clear. That system operates always. To some extent, it is a way that the body distinguishes between self and non-self.

In certain fashions, that system also keeps the body from squandering its energies, preserving biological integrity. Otherwise it would be as if you did not know where your own house began or ended, and so tried to heat the entire neighbourhood. So some indispositions “caused by viruses” are accepted by the body as welcome triggers, to clean out that system, and this applies to your present indispositions.

More is always involved, however, for those viruses that you consider communicable do indeed in one way or another represent communications on a biological level. They are biological statements, literally social communications, biologically made, and they can be of many kinds.

When a skunk is frightened, it throws-off a foul odour indeed, and when people are frightened they react in somewhat the same fashion at times, biologically reacting to stimuli in the environment that they consider alarming. They throw off a barrage of “foul viruses” – that is, they actually collect and mobilize from within their own bodies viruses that are potentially harmful, biologically trigger these, or activate them, and send them out into the environment in self protection, to ward off the enemy.

In a fashion this is a kind of biological aggression. The viruses, however, also represent tensions that the person involved is getting rid of. That is one kind of statement. It is often used in a very strong manner in times of war, or great social upheaval, when people feel frightened.

(Addressing transcriber Robert F. Butts: Now, your friend had been to the [Lake Placid] Olympics, and he was charged by the great physical vitality that he felt watching that athletic panorama. [Because of that, and for other personal reasons], he could find no release for the intense energy he felt, so he got rid of it, protected himself, and threw out his threatening biological posture: the viruses.

Your bodies had not received any such goodies in some time, so they exuberantly used them as triggers to regenerate the immune systems.

Many people had such reactions as your friend’s, coming from the Olympics, in that they did not know how to use and release their own energies-as if they themselves felt put in an inferior position in comparison to such achievements.)

There are all kinds of biological reactions between bodies that go unnoticed, and they are all basically of a social nature, dealing with biological communications. In a fashion viruses – in a fashion – again, are a way of dealing with or controlling the environment. These are natural interactions, and since you live in a world where, overall, people are healthy enough to contribute through labor, energy, and ideas, health is the dominating ingredient – but there are biological interactions between all physical bodies that are the basis for that health, and the mechanisms include the interactions of viruses, and even the periods of indisposition, that are not understood.

All of this has to do with [mankind’s] intent and understanding. The same relationships, however, do not only exist between human bodies, of course, but between man and the animals and the plants in the environment, and is part of the unending biological communication that overall produces the vitality of physical experience.

. . .

Certain “diseases” are protections against other diseases, and the body on its own is its own excellent regulator.

Obviously those abilities operate best when you trust them. The body’s systems know what diseases are in the air, so to speak, and will often set up countermeasures ahead of time, giving you what you experience as an indisposition of one kind or another – but an indisposition that is actually a statement of prevention against another condition.

There is great traffic flow in a city: A body knows how to leap out of the way in a moment’s time from an approaching car. In the interior physical environment there is far greater traffic flow. There are decisions made in periods of time so brief you cannot imagine them – reactions that are almost over before they begin, reactions so fast you cannot perceive them as the body responds to its inner reality, and to all the stimuli from the exterior environment. The body is an open system. As solid as it seems to you, there are constant chemical reactions between it and the world, electromagnetic adjustments, alterations of balance, changes of relationships – alterations that occur between the body and its relationship with every other physical event, from the position of the planets and moon and the sun, to the position of the smallest grain of sand, to the tiniest microbe in anyone’s intestine.

All of those adjustments are made without your conscious notice, and yet fit in with your overall purposes and intents.

From Dreams, Evolution and Value Fulfillment, by Jane Roberts, 1986, Amber-Allen Publishing

Viruses and their responses

You could not live without viruses, nor could your biological reality as you know it now exist.

Viruses appear to be “the bad guys”, and as a rule you think of them separately, as for example the smallpox virus. There are overall affiliations in which viruses take part, however, in which delicate balances are maintained biologically. Each body contains countless viruses that could be deadly at any given time and under certain conditions. These – and I am putting it as simply as possible – take turns being active or inactive within the body, in accordance with the body’s overall condition. Viruses that are “deadly” in certain stages are not in others, and in those later stages they react biologically in quite beneficial ways, adding to the body’s stability by bringing about necessary changes, say, in cellular activities that are helpful at given rates of action. These in turn trigger other cellular changes, again of a beneficial nature.

As an example from another field, consider poisons. Belladonna can be quite deadly, yet small doses of it were known to aid the body in disease conditions.

The viruses in the body have a social, cooperative existence. Their effects become deadly only under certain conditions. The viruses must be triggered into destructive activity, and this happens only at a certain point, when the individual involved is actively seeking either death or a crisis situation biologically.

The initial contagion in such cases is always emotional and mental. Social conditions are usually involved, so that an individual is, say, at the lower end of a poor social environment, a seeming victim of it, or in a situation where his individual value as a social member is severely weakened.

Now: In the same way that a member of such a society can go [askew], blow his stack, go overboard, commit antisocial acts, so in the same fashion such a person can instead trigger the viruses, wreck their biological social order, so that some of them suddenly become deadly, or run [amok]. So of course the resulting diseases are infectious. To that degree they are social diseases. It is not so much that a virus, say, suddenly turns destructive – though it does – as it is that the entire cooperative structure within which all the viruses are involved becomes insecure and threatened.

I told you that viruses mutate. Such is often the case. It seems quite scientific to believe in inoculations against such dangerous diseases – and certainly, scientifically, inoculations seem to work: People in your time right now are not plagued by smallpox, for example. Some cultures have believed that illnesses were caused by demons. Medicine men, through certain ceremonies, would try to rid the body of the demons – and those methods worked also. The belief system was tight and accepted, and it only began to fail when those societies encountered “civilized views”.

If you call the demons “negative beliefs”, however, then you have taken strides forward. People continue to die of diseases. Many of your scientific procedures, including inoculations, of themselves “cause” new diseases. It does not help a patient inoculated against smallpox and polio if [eventually] he dies of cancer as a result of his negative beliefs.

What I have said about viruses applies to all biological life. Viruses are “highly intelligent” – meaning that they react quickly to stimuli. They are responsive to emotional states. They are social. Their scale of life varies considerably, and some can be inactive for centuries, and revive. They have extensive memory patterns, biologically imprinted. Some can multiply in the tens of thousands within seconds. They are in many ways the basis of biological life, but you are aware of them only when they show “a deadly face”.

You are not aware of the inner army of viruses within the body that protect it constantly. Host and virus both need each other, and both are part of the same life cycle.

From The Individual and the Nature of Mass Events, by Jane Roberts, 1981, Amber-Allen Publishing

About epidemics

In the following passages, Seth refers both to the “days of the great plagues in England” and to virus epidemics. The plagues that ravaged England and Europe are believed to have been infections not of viruses but of the Yersinia pestis coccobacillus bacterium spread by fleas.

To a certain extent, epidemics are the result of a mass suicide phenomenon on the parts of those involved. Biological, sociological, or even economic factors may be involved, in that for a variety of reasons, and at different levels, whole groups of individuals want to die at any given time – but in such a way that their individual deaths amount to a mass statement.

On one level the deaths are a protest against the time in which they occur. Those involved have private reasons, however. The reasons, of course, vary from one individual to another, yet all involved “want their death to serve a purpose” beyond private concerns. Partially, then, such deaths are meant to make the survivors question the conditions – for unconsciously the species well knows there are reasons for such mass deaths that go beyond accepted beliefs.

In some historical periods the plight of the poor was so horrible, so unendurable, that outbreaks of the plague occurred, literally resulting in a complete destruction of large areas of the environment in which such social, political, and economic conditions existed. [Those] plagues took rich and poor alike, however, so the complacent well-to-do could see quite clearly, for example, that to some extent sanitary conditions, privacy, peace of mind, had to be granted to the poor alike, for the results of their dissatisfaction would have quite practical results. Those were deaths of protest.

Individually, each “victim” was to one extent or another a “victim” of apathy, despair, or hopelessness, which automatically lowered bodily defenses.

Not only do such states of mind lower the defenses, however, but they activate and change the body’s chemistries, alter its balances, and initiate disease conditions. Many viruses inherently capable of causing death, in normal conditions contribute to the overall health of the body, existing side by side as it were with other viruses, each contributing quite necessary activities that maintain bodily equilibrium.

If [certain viruses] are triggered, however, to higher activity or overproduction by mental states, they then become “deadly”. Physically they may be passed on in whatever manner is peculiar to a specific strain. Literally, individual mental problems of sufficient severity emerge as social, mass diseases.

The environment in which an outbreak occurs points at the political, sociological, and economic conditions that have evolved, causing such disorder. Often such outbreaks take place after ineffective political or social action – that is, after some unified mass social protest – has failed, or is considered hopeless. They often occur also in wartime on the part of a populace [that] is against a given war in which [its] country is involved.

Initially there is a psychic contagion: Despair moves faster than a mosquito, or any outward carrier of a given disease. The mental state brings about the activation of a virus that is, in those terms, passive. Despair may seem passive only because it feels that exterior action is hopeless – but its fires rage inwardly, and that kind of contagion can leap from bed to bed and from heart to heart. It touches those, however, who are in the same state only, and to some extent it brings about an acceleration in which something can indeed be done in terms of group action.

Now if you believe in one life only, then such conditions will seem most disastrous, and in your terms they clearly are not pretty. Yet, though each victim in an epidemic may die his or her own death, that death becomes part of a mass social protest. The lives of intimate survivors are shaken, and according to the extent of the epidemic the various elements of social life itself are disturbed, altered, rearranged. Sometimes such epidemics are eventually responsible for the overthrow of governments, the loss of wars.

There are also even deeper biological connections with the heart of nature. You are biological creatures. Your proud human consciousness rests on the vast “unconscious” integrity of your physical being. In that regard your consciousness is as natural as your toe. In terms of the species’ integrity your mental states are, then, highly important. Despair or apathy is a biological “enemy”. Social conditions, political states, economic policies, and even religious or philosophical frameworks that foster such mental states, bring about a biological retaliation. They act like fire applied to a plant.

The epidemics then serve many purposes – warning that certain conditions will not be tolerated. There is a biological outrage that will be continually expressed until the conditions are changed.

Even in the days of the great plagues in England there were those smitten who did not die, and there were those untouched by the disease who dealt with the sick and dying. Those survivors, who were actively involved, saw themselves in a completely different light than those who succumbed, however: They were those, untouched by despair, who saw themselves as effective rather than ineffective. Often they roused themselves from lives of previously unheroic situations, and then performed with great bravery. The horror of the conditions overwhelmed them where earlier they were not involved.

The sight of the dying gave them visions of the meaning of life, and stirred new [ideas] of sociological, political, and spiritual natures, so that in your terms the dead did not die in vain. Epidemics by their public nature speak of public problems – problems that sociologically threaten to sweep the individual to psychic disaster as the physical materialization does biologically.

These are the reasons also for the range or the limits of various epidemics – why they sweep through one area and leave another clear. Why one in the family will die and another survive – for in this mass venture, the individual still forms his or her private reality.

In your society scientific medical beliefs operate, and a kind of preventative medicine, mentioned earlier, in which procedures [of inoculation] are taken, bringing about in healthy individuals a minute disease condition that then gives immunity against a more massive visitation. In the case of any given disease this procedure might work quite well for those who believe in it. It is, however, the belief, and not the procedure, that works.

I am not recommending that you abandon the procedure when it obviously works for so many – yet you should understand why it brings about the desired results.

Such medical technology is highly specific, however. You cannot be inoculated with the desire to live, or with the zest, delight, or contentment of the healthy animal. If you have decided to die, protected from one disease in such a manner, you will promptly come down with another, or have an accident. The immunization, while specifically effective, may only reinforce prior beliefs about the body’s ineffectiveness. It may appear that left alone the body would surely develop whatever disease might be “fashionable” at the time, so that the specific victory might result in the ultimate defeat as far as your beliefs are concerned.

You have your own medical systems, however. I do not mean to undermine them, since they are undermining themselves. Some of my statements clearly cannot be proven, in your terms, and appear almost sacrilegious. Yet, throughout your history no man or woman has died who did not want to die, regardless of the state of medical technology. Specific diseases have certain symbolic meanings, varying with the times and the places.

There has been great discussion in past years about the survival of the fittest, in Darwinian terms, but little emphasis is placed upon the quality of life, or of survival itself; or in human terms, [there has been] little probing into the question of what makes life worthwhile. Quite simply, if life is not worthwhile, no species will have a reason to continue.

Civilizations are literally social species. They die when they see no reason to live, yet they seed other civilizations. Your private mental states en masse bring about the mass cultural stance of your civilization. To some extent, then, the survival of your civilization is quite literally dependent upon the condition of each individual; and that condition is initially a spiritual, psychic state that gives birth to the physical organism. That organism is intimately connected to the natural biological state of each other person, and to each other living thing, or entity, however minute.

Despite all “realistic” pragmatic tales to the contrary, the natural state of life itself is one of joy, acquiescence with itself – a state in which action is effective, and the power to act is a natural right. You would see this quite clearly with plants, animals, and all other life if you were not so blinded by beliefs to the contrary. You would feel it in the activity of your bodies, in which the vital individual affirmation of your cells brings about the mass, immensely complicated achievement of your physical being. That activity naturally promotes health and vitality.

I am not speaking of some romanticized, “passive,” floppy, spiritual world, but of a clear reality without impediments, in which the opposite of despair and apathy reigns.

From The Individual and the Nature of Mass Events, by Jane Roberts, 1981, Amber-Allen Publishing