Olduvaiblog: Musings on the coming collapse

Home » Posts tagged 'Earth'

Tag Archives: Earth

How Climate Change Helped Decimate a 4,000 Year Old Megacity | Motherboard

How Climate Change Helped Decimate a 4,000 Year Old Megacity | Motherboard.

February 27, 2014 // 05:01 PM EST 

More than 4,000 years ago, three civilizations dominated South Asia and North Africa. Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia are names you’ll surely recognize, but the lesser-known Indus Valley Civilization was actually the largest of the three. During its height, at around 2600 BCE, the Indus spread across what is now India and Pakistan, and built large cities like Mohenjo-Daro, whose population is estimated to have been well into five figures.

Around 1800 BCE, the Indus civilization began to decline, and all but disappeared by 1300 BCE. The reason has been the source of controversy for decades, but new research adds evidence to the theory that climate change led to a sharp weakening of the key summer monsoon season, which left the Indus river valley drier and inhospitable.

Tracking weather patterns from millennia ago isn’t easy. The University of Cambridge research team first started by finding an ancient lake, called Kotla Dahar, that still existed in the Indus’ time. The dirt at the bottom of an ancient lake doesn’t offer many clues, but what it holds does: By identifying the species and chemical makeup of ancient snails buried in the former lake, the Cambridge team was able to calculate how much rainfall the region received thousands of years ago. The results are published in Geology.

They found that the paleolake in Haryana, India was a deep body of water between 6,500 and 5,800 years ago, which corresponded with a time of heavy monsoon action. But, in snail shells dating to around 4,100 years ago—right before the time the Indus when into decline—the researchers found an increase of an oxygen isotope, which suggests the lake was drying up due to a weakening of the summer monsoon.

“We think that we now have a really strong indication that a major climate event occurred in the area where a large number of Indus settlements were situated,” study co-author Professor David Hodell said in a release. “Taken together with other evidence from Meghalaya in northeast India, Oman and the Arabian Sea, our results provide strong evidence for a widespread weakening of the Indian summer monsoon across large parts of India 4,100 years ago.”

At the time, drought was spreading throughout much of Asia. “The 4.2 ka aridification event is regarded as one of the most severe climatic changes in the Holocene, and affected several Early Bronze Age populations from the Aegean to the ancient Near East,” the authors write.

A map of the spread of the Indus Valley Civilization, including Mohenjo-Daro (5) and Harappa (4), another large city. Image: Wikipedia

 

Such drought would certainly have had a destabilizing effect. And even given some wiggle room within the dates—again, dating isotopes of snail shells in ancient lake beds is a tall task—the authors argue such monsoon weakening corresponds with known times for Indus decline. “The resultant age of drying at Kotla Dahar is consistent with the suggested archeological dates for the onset of Indus de-urbanization within dating uncertainties,” the authors write.

As you might expect, drought wreaks havoc on agriculture. Feeding a megacity, even an ancient one like Mohenjo-Daro, takes a strong farm sector, and without one, people will disappear. “Our paleoclimate record also provides indirect evidence for the suggestion that the ISM weakening at ca. 4.1 ka in northwestern India likely led to severe decline in summer overbank flooding that adversely affected monsoon-supported agriculture in this region,” the authors write.

The Indus civilization collapse has remained a mystery for at least a century of archeological investigation, but the climate angle has been batted around for nearly that long. As V.N. Misra notes in a deep look at the subject, British archeologists Sir Aurel Stein and Sir John Marshall both posited in 1931 that the Indus lived in a far wetter climate, which was held as fact until the 60s, when an American team poked holes in previous evidence.

Since then, the evidence has largely been on the side of drought coinciding with the Indus collapse, although there have also been arguments to the contrary. Isotopic studies have provided more conclusive evidence. A 2003 study in Geophysical Research Letters also found evidence of drought occurring around 4,200 years ago. Combined with the most recent study, it’s becoming more clear that while drought alone may not have caused the Indus collapse, it does appear to have helped push things along.

“We know that there was a clear shift away from large populations living in megacities,” co-author Dr. Cameron Petrie said. “But precisely what happened to the Indus civilization has remained a mystery. It is unlikely that there was a single cause, but a climate change event would have induced a whole host of knock-on effects.”

And guess what? Research in the last few years has shown that the current warming climate will likely lead to a decrease in India’s monsoon season. A 2012 paper in Environmental Research Letters put it rather simply: “Indian monsoon rainfall is vital for a large share of the world’s population,” the authors write in their abstract, before noting that “monsoon failure is possible but very rare under pre-industrial conditions, while under future warming it becomes much more frequent.”

Compounding the problem, Pakistani media reported last fall that researchers have modeled a decline in Himalayan glaciers, which means that rivers already feeling the effects of decreasing monsoon intensity could also have less snow melt to rely on. For the hundreds of millions of people in the region, the coming drought may feel a bit too reminiscent of the Indus’ collapse for comfort. But there is one major difference: This time, the climate change is man-made.

Is “the environment” now obsolete?

Is “the environment” now obsolete?.

For millennia the presence of humans on planet Earth hardly made a dent in its ecosystems. Humans were at the mercy of their environment as much as any other creature. But with the advent of agriculture, humans began to influence the planet in major ways. Some scientists posit that the clearing of large swaths of land for planting over the past 10,000 years released enough carbon into the atmosphere to delay the next ice age.

Of course, in the past two centuries the pace of those carbon releases has grown exponentially with the industrial revolution through the burning of fossil fuels. These emissions now threaten to flip the planet into a warm state far beyond anything experienced by humans in their relatively brief time on Earth. The question we must now face is whether humans still live in “the environment” or whether they now are“the environment” by virtue of their actions.

The distinction mattered little as long as we didn’t live in what economist Herman Daly calls “a full world.” The introduction to his piece “Economics in a Full World” which appeared in Scientific American in 2005 states: “The global economy is now so large that society can no longer safely pretend it operates within a limitless ecosystem.”

And, pretending is all we’ve been doing since the dawn of humans. As it turns out, the biosphere that is our home has been shaped by the very organisms that inhabit it. For example, about 2.4 billion years ago, cyanobacteria which are capable of photosynthesis appeared and began absorbing carbon dioxide from Earth’s atmosphere and releasing oxygen in great quantities back into it. The period has been dubbed The Great Oxidation Event, and it wiped out most anaerobic bacteria (because, of course, they can’t survive in an oxygen environment). As a result, The Great Oxidation Event is regarded as one of the largest extinction events of all time.

We see the imprint of living organisms shaping the biosphere everywhere. The carbon cycle–the very basis of life as we know it–involves plants and microorganisms both on land and in the sea. Even our human bodies are part of it as we breathe in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide. Shell-making aquatic organisms use carbon and calcium from seawater to make their shells. When these organisms die, their shells sink to the ocean floor where they become part of the vast carbonate-rich deposits of sedimentary rocks.

And there is the nitrogen cycle, a cycle critical to the survival of all living things. None of us can live without the nitrogen needed to build the proteins and the nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) we depend on for our functioning. Nitrogen in the atmosphere, however, cannot be utilized by plants. But, it turns out that soil bacteria convert this nitrogen into a form that is usable for plants and therefore usable for the animals that eat those plants. (Lightening also performs this transformation.)

So the principle is that organisms are both acted upon by their environment and act ontheir environment. They both adapt to their circumstances and attempt to alter those circumstances to enable them to survive and thrive. There can be no doubt that humans do this. Of course, this doesn’t guarantee that all organisms will survive, at least not in their current form. And, that’s how we get evolution on Earth. Organisms gradually change over time or go extinct if they cannot adapt quickly enough to changing circumstances or alter those circumstances enough to allow their survival.

All organisms are continuously acting both to adjust to surrounding circumstances and to shape those circumstances. This is a key insight. We earthbound organisms are not, as Darwin implies, mere helpless actors. Each of us has a role to play in maintaining the web of life. This conclusion is logical. How can we say that wolves are influencing the evolutionary development of sheep without saying sheep are influencing the evolutionary development of wolves?

What can we now say about “the environment” when the dominant force shaping it us? We have interfered in the carbon cycle in a profound way, vastly speeding up the introduction of carbon into the atmosphere and the oceans (ocean acidification). What can we now say about the nitrogen cycle after 1905 when Fritz Haber figured out how to convert nitrogen from the air into a form usable for plants–a discovery that led to modern-day nitrogen fertilizers that have greatly expanded the food supply and thus allowed human populations to skyrocket?

But, runoff laced with these same fertilizers is responsible for the eutrophication of bodies of water. And, it turns out that the long-term use of artificial nitrogen fertilizers actually reduces the productivity of the soil. One affectless but nevertheless ominous observation from recent research on the subject summarizes the problem: Long-term nitrogen fertilizer use “has been implicated in widespread reports of yield stagnation or even decline for grain production in Asia.” (For a fuller summary, see this piece inGrist.)

To every action there is a reaction. It just may not show up right away.

In a recent opinion piece in The New York Times Erle Ellis, a biologist, embraced the idea that there is no “environment” that constrains human action. Here is the heart of his argument:

 The science of human sustenance is inherently a social science. Neither physics nor chemistry nor even biology is adequate to understand how it has been possible for one species to reshape both its own future and the destiny of an entire planet. This is the science of the Anthropocene. The idea that humans must live within the natural environmental limits of our planet denies the realities of our entire history, and most likely the future. Humans are niche creators. We transform ecosystems to sustain ourselves. This is what we do and have always done. Our planet’s human-carrying capacity emerges from the capabilities of our social systems and our technologies more than from any environmental limits.

Ellis is one of the few scientists I’ve read who understands that what we humans are doing to the Earth is really a political issue–notice that he invokes social science. And, he has given his advocacy services over to the side that proclaims that perpetual growth in the human domain is possible. To repeat: His conclusion stems not from mere natural science, but from social science, that is, the realm of the political.

But, he makes two obvious errors in his piece when he proclaims: “There really is no such thing as a human carrying capacity. We are nothing at all like bacteria in a petri dish.”

He is referring, of course, to the classic illustration of the petri dish which ultimately runs out of food for the hungry, multiplying bacteria it contains, and that leads to a population crash among the bacteria. His error is in assigning agency only to humans, in assigning the ability to shape our environment only to humans. And yet, as a biologist who must know the history of planet Earth, he is being disingenuous. Remember the humble cyanobacteria and the huge destruction it wreaked on other forms of life. Ellis says in the previous excerpt: “Humans are niche creators.” But, so are all other organisms on the planet, a rather glaring omission. This is, in fact, a key similarity between us and bacteria.

What Ellis imagines is that humans will always and everywhere be successful at creating new niches for themselves–that all the other organisms on the planet will somehow accommodate us enough to allow the human species to grow continuously and its extractions from the rest of the natural world to grow with it. He is right that humans have always altered the biosphere (as has every other organism). But he seems not to understand the current scale of alterations and the rapidity with which they are taking place. Scale matters. Remember Herman Daly’s admonish that we live in a full world. And, that world is on course to change its climate dramatically in just a few decades. Such a time line is unprecedented in human history.

Ellis again has a scientific lapse by simply dismissing the competition and cooperation from other species as inconsequential–for example, competition for basic resources such as food and water and cooperation from such species as bees which pollinate the lion’s share of the world crops. He is too dismissive of human-induced changes in the oceans, the soils and the atmosphere as something humans will always and everywhere be able to survive.

He tells us that 200,000 years ago humans started to transform the planet. What he fails to mention is that it has not been a one-way trajectory skyward. About 70,000 years ago, probably because of climate change, human numbers were likely reduced to just 2,000. The lack of genetic diversity in humans has long pointed to such an event. All of us today come from those 2,000.

But, of course, we’re better equipped than those humans. And today, with our unparalleled knowledge, we wouldn’t foolishly undermine the systems in our biosphere that are critical to our well-being, would we?

Ellis writes with the vast overconfidence of someone who thinks he knows the future with certainty and that humans will always figure something out no matter the scope or rapidity of the changes they face. In his opinion piece he gushes: “Who knows what will be possible with the technologies of the future?” Actually, nobody knows.

But, we humans are not “in charge” of the biosphere. We are only competing and cooperating with various parts of it in a struggle to survive and thrive. Isn’t it obvious by now that the biosphere does not always do what we want it to do and only what we want it to do? It’s as if the law of unintended consequences has never occurred to Ellis.

Given that we know now that all organisms try to remake the biosphere to their liking, this should make us far less confident that we can make everything turn out just fine for humans. Keep in mind that we face a bewildering and essentially incalculable array of actors with whom we are forced sometimes to fight and sometimes to cooperate. In fact, we cannot even know what all of them are and probably are only familiar with a small sliver of all that lives. Our knowledge of the biosphere and the Earth is not just imperfect, it is wildly imperfect. If we’re so smart, why didn’t we avoid changing the climate, devastating the fisheries, degrading the soil through rapid erosion, and lacing the air, water and soil with toxic chemicals in the first place?

Even though Ellis is right that there is no fixed human carrying capacity–because humans, their social and technological circumstances, and the world of other organisms and Earth processes are changing all the time–this is but a red herring. No bona fide scientist has said otherwise. When most scientists refer to human carrying capacity, they mean long-term carrying capacity; they mean thousands of years. And, Ellis never even contemplates the possibility that this fluctuating human carrying capacity might go down! The human story forever goes upward (except, for example, 70,000 years ago, when, due to climate change, it didn’t).

So we have a semantic sleight-of-hand that ducks the long-term problem and places Ellis (whether he knows it or not) firmly on the side of interests that only think short-term, primarily the industrial and commercial interests. We are back to politics, again. With which interests should we ally ourselves? The well-being and futurity of the human race or the short-term interests of powerful elites?

William Catton Jr., author of the ecological classic Overshoot, prefigured the coming of the Anthropocene, an age of the Earth dominated by human actions–where menacing geological changes such as changes in the chemistry of the ocean and the atmosphere take place by dint of human action and within a human lifetime. Catton gave humans a new name, homo colossus, a human-tool hybrid with immense power to shape the globe. With worldwide geologic changes coming this fast, what will it mean from now on to refer to the geologic time scale?

If we are indeed already in the Anthropocene, then “the environment” cannot be “out there.” And, it cannot be “preserved.” The environment is us and everything else together constantly in flux. It is no longer a static scientific construction, but a political one within which we humans are firmly situated along with all the other organisms and Earth processes. We cannot be above or apart from it. We cannot “save it” as actors from beyond.

But, we can decide which values we want to defend. With apologies to some of my geologist friends who understand rightly that the human project on planet Earth will just be a blip in Earth’s history–please stop identifying with the rocks! Rocks are an excellent area of study; and, we have geologists to thank for much of what we know about Earth’s systems. But, the time has now come to realize that that knowledge has political implications for what we as humans will actually do from here on out.

The advent of the Anthropocene has wiped out the distinction between human history and natural history. And so, my minor temper tantrum over geology applies to all the other natural sciences. There is no distinction between us and the natural world. There is just the thin membrane of life and life processes clinging to the Earth’s surface which we call the biosphere and of which humans are merely a part.

It has always been thus. But now, it is imperative that we understand this if we wish to salvage anything we call human in the century to come.

_________________________________________________________________________

P.S. The inspiration for this piece comes from Bruno Latour who gave the Gifford Lectures last year, particularly the third and fourth lectures. And, I thank my friend Jim Armstrong for some thoroughly stimulating discussions about these lectures and Latour’s latest work.

Planet likely to warm by 4C by 2100, scientists warn | Environment | The Guardian

Planet likely to warm by 4C by 2100, scientists warn | Environment | The Guardian.

Clouds

The role clouds play in climate change has been something of a mystery – until now. Photograph: Frank Rumpenhorst/ Frank Rumpenhorst/dpa/Corbis

Temperature rises resulting from unchecked climate change will be at the severe end of those projected, according to a new scientific study.

The scientist leading the research said that unless emissions of greenhouse gases were cut, the planet would heat up by a minimum of 4C by 2100, twice the level the world’s governments deem dangerous.

The research indicates that fewer clouds form as the planet warms, meaning less sunlight is reflected back into space, driving temperatures up further still. The way clouds affect global warming has been the biggest mystery surrounding future climate change.

Professor Steven Sherwood, at the University of New South Wales, in Australia, who led the new work, said: “This study breaks new ground twice: first by identifying what is controlling the cloud changes and second by strongly discounting the lowest estimates of future global warming in favour of the higher and more damaging estimates.”

“4C would likely be catastrophic rather than simply dangerous,” Sherwood told the Guardian. “For example, it would make life difficult, if not impossible, in much of the tropics, and would guarantee the eventual melting of the Greenland ice sheet and some of the Antarctic ice sheet“, with sea levels rising by many metres as a result.

The research is a “big advance” that halves the uncertainty about how much warming is caused by rises in carbon emissions, according to scientists commenting on the study, published in the journal Nature. Hideo Shiogama and Tomoo Ogura, at Japan’s National Institute for Environmental Studies, said the explanation of how fewer clouds form as the world warms was “convincing”, and agreed this indicated future climate would be greater than expected. But they said more challenges lay ahead to narrow down further the projections of future temperatures.

Scientists measure the sensitivity of the Earth’s climate to greenhouse gases by estimating the temperature rise that would be caused by a doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere compared with pre-industrial levels – as is likely to happen within 50 years, on current trends. For two decades, those estimates have run from 1.5C to 5C, a wide range; the new research narrowed that range to between 3C and 5C, by closely examining the biggest cause of uncertainty: clouds.

The key was to ensure that the way clouds form in the real world was accurately represented in computer climate models, which are the only tool researchers have to predict future temperatures. When water evaporates from the oceans, the vapour can rise over nine miles to form rain clouds that reflect sunlight; or it may rise just a few miles and drift back down without forming clouds. In reality, both processes occur, and climate models encompassing this complexity predicted significantly higher future temperatures than those only including the nine-mile-high clouds.

“Climate sceptics like to criticise climate models for getting things wrong, and we are the first to admit they are not perfect,” said Sherwood. “But what we are finding is that the mistakes are being made by the models which predict less warming, not those that predict more.”

He added: “Sceptics may also point to the ‘hiatus’ of temperatures since the end of the 20th century, but there is increasing evidence that this inaptly named hiatus is not seen in other measures of the climate system, and is almost certainly temporary.”

Global average air temperatures have increased relatively slowly since a high point in 1998 caused by the ocean phenomenon El Niño, but observations show that heat is continuing to be trapped in increasing amounts by greenhouse gases, with over 90% disappearing into the oceans. Furthermore, a study in November suggested the “pause” may be largely an illusion resulting from the lack of temperature readings from polar regions, where warming is greatest.

Sherwood accepts his team’s work on the role of clouds cannot definitively rule out that future temperature rises will lie at the lower end of projections. “But,” he said, for that to be the case, “one would need to invoke some new dimension to the problem involving a major missing ingredient for which we currently have no evidence. Such a thing is not out of the question but requires a lot of faith.”

He added: “Rises in global average temperatures of [at least 4C by 2100] will have profound impacts on the world and the economies of many countries if we don’t urgently start to curb our emissions.”

 

Abraham Lake In Winter Is Gorgeous.. And Explosive (PHOTOS)

Abraham Lake In Winter Is Gorgeous.. And Explosive (PHOTOS).

Photographs of Abraham Lake frozen in the middle of winter rival, in beauty and awe, those of any other Alberta mountain lake.

It may be man-made but it flaunts the same myrtle green in the water and the same mountain peaks around the lake that other natural, liquid wonders that dot the Canadian Rockies landscape provide.

abraham lake

But Abraham Lake has something the others do not.

Frozen in the ice are other-worldly features, features that are so awe-inspiring and unique that they draw photographers from the world over.

In the bluish tinge of the winter’s ice, photographs capture puffy pedestals of gas, cotton-like bubbles frozen in time and milky stains that colour the frozen surface.

Take a look.

CPThe features and colour showcased in all their glories in the ice are truly a sight to behold, but they are also to be respected, as they are nothing less than explosive.

What lurks beneath the surface of this bewitching lake is methane gas.

Methane is an effective fuel, burning – and exploding – with ease.

Thus, the haunting scenes captured by the photographer’s lens, frame perfectly the duality of the beauty of the lake, explains photographer Fikret Onal.

“The bubbles are methane gas, which is released when plants and animals decompose in the lake,” explains Onal.

“The plants on the lake bed release methane gas and methane gets frozen once coming close enough to much colder lake surface and they keep stacking up below once the weather gets colder and colder during [the] winter season.”

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, according to University of Alaska Fairbanks Professor Katey Walter Anthony.

Story continues below video

When Abraham Lake is frozen, much older methane from deep beneath the Earth’s crust and ancient oceans remains trapped at the bottom of the lake as a white rock substance known as methane hydrate. As the lake starts to warm up, the methane escapes and comes to the surface. Combined with the methane from decomposition, this creates the amazing-looking frozen columns seen in these photographs.

The effect is compounded by the fact Abraham is not a natural lake but is the result of the damming of the North Saskatchewan River in northern Alberta in 1972. The result is extra organic material, such as trees, grasses and plants that would normally not be found on a lake bed, decomposing and creating even more methane gas.

As climate change takes its toll in northern lakes and seas, scientists fear that methane that has been frozen by permafrost will slowly start to leak into the atmosphere, pumping out as much as 10 times the amount of methane that is currently in the atmosphere will come out of frozen lakes such as Abraham.

But the methane also provides an opportunity for those who can harness it’s power and redirect it towards industrial consumption.

In early 2013, Japan became the first country to successfully extract natural frozen gas from deposits of icy methane hydrate buried in the ocean floor. According to experts, the amount of carbon stored in these types of gas deposits across the globe is staggering, and the idea of tapping into this newfound energy reserve could mean big things for countries with scant energy resources. –Environmentalgraffiti.com

 

Collapse of Industrial Civilization | Finding the Truth behind the American Hologram

Collapse of Industrial Civilization | Finding the Truth behind the American Hologram.

tumblr_ll00m5PRZz1qi2mngo1_1280

Even with all the environmental reports I read about the numerous species man is pushing off the face off the Earth, the biospheric havoc he is wreaking, and the violence he inflicts upon his fellow man, I still find the idea of human extinction surreal when I flip on the TV and see commercials for Viagra, breast augmentation, and ‘Hoveround’ power wheelchairs. I mean, we’ve managed to walk on the moon and send out exploratory space crafts and robots to other planets, yet we cannot even manage ourselves adequately enough here at home to keep from irrevocably fouling things up?!? How can that be? That we can achieve such feats of genius, but end up shooting ourselves in the proverbial foot with greenhouse gases just seems like one enormous and macabre cosmic joke to me. Doesn’t it strike you as tragically humorous? Oh, but the word is that we humans would be crazy if we didn’t reach deep down into our bag of technological tricks, if only for one last desperate time, to try to fix this doozy of a problem we’ve gotten ourselves into. Why not? We’ve already FUBARED the planet as it is, what with the chain of climate feedback loops irretrievably out of the genie’s bottle, making any mitigation and adaptation plans a day late and a dollar short. Faith in technological progress is certainly a myth that will not go down easily. We’ll keep trying to right this plane even as it does barrel rolls into the side of a mountain. What a horrible accounting error humans made by ignoring depletion and pollution in their calculations. Governments pretended that peak oil and global warming were simply figments of our imagination. If only their jobs didn’t depend on maintaining such an epic falsehood. Who knew 9 billion humans would become the next deposit of fossil fuels.

Snap 2013-12-09 at 06.56.02

We had other things on our mind though, didn’t we. Money and the ability to generate it became the raison d’être for humans. Saving the environment simply was not profitable, unless you could convert it into some sort of tourist attraction. Wealthy people could hop on a CO2-belching airline and traipse around in those “protected areas” with their safari hat on and an assortment of modern electronic paraphernalia to record the momentous occasion, not too dissimilar to those annual climate change conferences the industrial world would put on. Humans always were great at maintaining appearances, even if it did cost them an entire civilization that spanned the planet. They were so good at detaching themselves from their surroundings that they could literally monitor a species into extinctionwhile calling the whole process conservation. How’s that for self-delusion! As long as someone was getting paid, no one really cared about the end results.Biostitutes indeed!

Snap 2013-12-05 at 21.55.43

So one could say that the human path to extinction was paved in greenbacks, if not gold. Nobody dared whisper that all the wealth humans had built up and accumulated over the last several hundred years since the industrial revolution was simply a grand illusion, a phantasmagoria of the fossil fuel age. It is said that there are two things certain in this world, but actually there are three: death, taxes, and ecological balance. Man may exploit, pollute, exterminate, and plunder all he wants, but in the end Mother Nature will always claw back what was taken without forethought or reflection. The first mistake made by man was to proclaim dominion over nature. From that point onward many other bonehead maneuvers were orchestrated by humans, but perhaps the biggest one was when they gave personhood to an economic entity devoid of feelings, morals, or conscience. How could anyone seriously think corporations were people??? Homo sapiens must suffer from an inferiority complex to have labeled its kind “wise”.

2230-dystopiaSo this is my second eulogy to man, my first being ’The Short Story of Carbon Man and Industrial Civilization‘. There are no Hollywood happy endings or cliff-hanger climaxes. Mother Earth will slowly take back what was stolen while billions of tiny humans scurry around to higher ground and find ways to temporarily hold off the gathering forces, but no mercy will be given to those who brushed off decades of warnings and prescient predictions. There will be no miracles here for a species that believes itself separate from and above the natural world.

In Memory of Man

2,000,000 B.C. – 2060 A.D.
He who once dominated the Earth with his technology and ingenuity,
but whose overwhelming numbers and psychopathic leaders
pissed it all away in a sea of radiation,
toxic chemicals, and plastics

“The planet is fine. The people are fucked.”

― George Carlin

ego-vs-nature

 

“For Sale. Baby Shoes. Never Worn.” | Collapse of Industrial Civilization

“For Sale. Baby Shoes. Never Worn.” | Collapse of Industrial Civilization.

“For Sale. Baby Shoes. Never Worn.”

02 Monday Dec 2013

Dystopian-Worlds-1

Despite mounting evidence of our grim reality, the world’s psychopathic leadership remains willfully deaf, dumb, and blind to the unfolding global ecocide and humanicide. A persistent sounding of the alarm by a tiny minority of the population only seems to have irritated and offended those in the elite class who are pressing the fossil-fueled industrial machine onward, full steam ahead. However, it’s not a cliff we are headed towards because surely the psychopaths would have hidden their parachutes underneath their business suits. There will be no Bottleneck for humans because we’re headed toward the black hole of extinction from which nobody gets out alive. Yes, they’ll be a few hangers-on for a brief period until there is only one lone straggler… and then darkness for the human species along with 99% of all other life. We’re doomed by a pathocracy:

…from Greek pathos, “feeling, pain, suffering”; and kratos, “rule”

A totalitarian form of government in which absolute political power is held by a psychopathic elite, and their effect on the people is such that the entire society is ruled and motivated by purely pathological values.

A pathocracy can take many forms and can insinuate itself covertly into any seemingly just system or ideology. As such it can masquerade under the guise of a democracy or theocracy as well as more openly oppressive regimes…

Kevin Moore, a frequent commenter on this site, has provided us with an excellent summation of current factors which clearly spell extinction for the “wise” ape. Certainly if a reasonable person in charge studies his list, they would want to turn this ill-fated ship around before it quite literally takes everyone down into a deep, watery grave. On the contrary, Kevin points out that they are “throwing the compass and fishing gear overboard” and “boring holes in the hull while distributing all the rations for immediate consumption.” I’m afraid those who have managed to work their way into political positions are forbidden from making any decisions jeopardizing business-as-usual; but as the memes go, there is no business on a dead planet nor is there a planet B. The least these politicians and corporate heads could do is be honest with their own children by telling them their future is not as important as the short-term profits to be had right now by ripping up the Earth’s last remaining resources and fouling the biosphere. If they cannot be truthful to their own offspring, how could we expect them to be forthright and unbiased with us?

At any rate and for posterity’s sake (however brief that may be), here is Kevin’s detailed and ‘hopium-free’ list:

Yesterday I sent out an email to a long list of people concerning the meeting I had with the local council’s climate change officer, during which I pointed out we are in the early stages of complete meltdown of planetary systems. And ‘nobody’ is at all bothered.

Here is what I sent as a summary of the meeting: .

I raised the following points with Colin Comber, New Plymouth District Council climate change officer, at our meeting on Friday, 29th November, 2013. On most points he had nothing to say.

1. The forcing factor for methane has been raised from 23 times CO2 to 34 times CO2. Even that multiplier understates the warming potential in the short term, and a figure of at least 100 times should be used for methane bursts.

2. Recent methane bursts in the East Siberian Sea have resulted in 2000ppb, which is equivalent to over 200ppm CO2 in the short-term, making the total global CO2 equivalence 600ppm (at least). The extraordinarily high concentration of greenhouse gases has resulted in rapid temperature increases in the Arctic (up around 1C since 2006, despite the huge amount of energy involved in melting ice.).

3. 2012 saw the lowest ever summer ice area.

4. The current Arctic ice area is hovering around two standard deviations below the historic average, but much of the ice is thin and new, making 2013 the lowest stable ice volume ever.

5. Atmospheric CO2 hit 400ppm earlier this year. It troughed at 393ppm (photosynthesis cycle) and is on its way up; it is anticipated to reach 403ppm April-May 2014.

6. The heat forcing of current atmospheric CO2 is equivalent to around 400,000 Hiroshima-sized bombs being exploded every day.

7. The present level of atmospheric CO2 is 40% above the pre-industrial level and corresponds to a sea level 23 meters above current; the reason we don’t have an immediate sea level rise is the thermal lag of warming deep oceans and converting ice into water. Such a level of CO2 has not been experienced any time in the evolution of humans over the past 2 million years. Indeed, for much of our recent history the CO2 level was around 180ppm and there were thick ice sheets as far south as central England.

8. The IEA has announced we are on track for a rise in average temperature of 3.5oC by 2035. Such a temperature rise puts temperatures beyond anything experienced in human history and most of the Earth into an uninhabitable zone. Interestingly, NZ governments quote the IEA as the best source of information when it comes to energy but completely ignore the IEA when it comes to unwelcome information about climate. The IEA is talking about a runaway greenhouse gas situation.

9. Acidification of the oceans [due to absorption of anthropogenic CO2 from the atmosphere] is proceeding at an unprecedented rate, leading to stress of organisms dependent on bicarbonate cycle for shell formation. Industrial activity is altering the chemical and biological composition of the oceans at a rate faster than that of the great Permian Extinction Event which wiped out 95% of life on Earth. Continuation on the current path of burning fossil fuels will render the oceans uninhabitable to most existing marine species, and then wipe out most terrestrial species.

10. I was personally shocked to see millions of jellyfish on a local beach recently. Although my observation has no scientific significance it is indicative of the ‘death of the oceans’ I have been reading about; we are transforming the oceans back to some primeval form, similar to that of 600 million years ago, wiping out the species (turtles, sunfish etc.) that feed on jellyfish and loading the oceans with toxins. I had previously noted the paucity of sea life in rock pools compared to 30 years ago (this is presumably not from over-collection, since the beach has been designated a maritime protection zone).

11. Whereas the previous five mass extinction events (other than the one that wiped out dinosaurs) were due to natural volcanic activity, the present mass extinction event is due to industrial activity and emissions from industrial activity.

12. An unknown amount of radiation is leaking from the crippled Fukushima reactors into the Pacific Ocean. People on the west coast of the US are now extremely concerned, particularly since mass deaths of sea life are now being frequently reported.

13. Australia recently reported the highest ever October temperatures (corresponding with the earliest severe wildfires).

14. Typhoon Haiyan was the biggest storm ever to make landfall and resulted in unprecedented damage. This was due to extraordinarily hot sea water associated with ocean warming. An excellent essay on Nature Bats Last highlighted the fact that prior to the Second World War people in the region lived without the ‘benefits’ of civilization, and when storms smashed things up they just picked up the pieces and rebuilt their huts, got water from lakes and rivers, and went back to fishing from small boats: now they are unable to do any of that because all the natural, sustainable systems have been ruined or covered with concrete and asphalt, and industrial civilization resulted in a population explosion that resulted in far more victims than there would have been if development had not occurred.

15. If we imagine the Earth totally covered with industrial civilization (no land available for food production) it is clearly not sustainable. 90% covered by civilization is not sustainable. Nor is 80%. Not even 50% is sustainable. The current level of civilization utilises about 43% of the primary production of the Earth and has resulted in a 0.85C rise in average temperature. That 0.85C rise is already having catastrophic effects (meltdown of the Arctic, super-storms etc.)

16. The fact that we already have meltdown (lowest Arctic ice, extraordinary storms, death of corals etc.) at 0.85C above the long-term average indicates that we are already in overshoot with respect to population and resource consumption. Despite the fact that we have reached the meltdown stage, governments persist with policies predicated on increased population and increased resource use, which is completely insane. NPDC [New Plymouth District Council] advocates the same kind of insanity on a daily basis.

17. The previously proposed ‘safe’ level of temperature rise of 2C is not safe at all, and was only ever an arbitrary number. But climate specialists now admit that warming cannot be restricted to 2C anyway, and that we are on track for a 4C or 6C rise in average temperature, i.e. a largely uninhabitable planet in a matter of decades, probably by 2060, which would be within the normal lifespan of children living today. If the International Energy Agency is correct, the Earth will be largely uninhabitable by 2040.

18. Nothing whatsoever is being done to curtail emissions. International negotiations are a farce predicated on ‘kicking the can down the road’ for as long as possible. NPDC policy, mirroring that around the world, is geared to increasing CO2 emissions, via increased population, increased use of concrete, increased dependence on internal combustion engines, etc. I quoted the incident I had witnessed of two petrol-powered vehicles being used to deposit and level gravel on a path in Pukekura Park when one person with a wheelbarrow could have done the job (and 50 years ago that was how the job was done); meanwhile, the mulching machine in operation in the park prior to our meeting would have consumed more energy in a few hours than the electric bikes the council promotes would save in a year.

19. Extraction of conventional oil peaked over 2005 to 2008, and the economic system is now being propped up by desperation measures centered around fracking, deep-sea drilling, extraction from tar sands, etc. as well as consuming ever greater amounts of energy, such activities increase the emissions associated with fossil fuel extraction, thereby exacerbating the climate catastrophe.

20. We cannot look to John Key* or Jonathan Young** or Andrew Little*** for leadership on environmental issues: they are simply opportunists acting as agents of global corporations and money-lenders; they implement policies favourable to global corporations and money-lenders which entail trashing the environment, generally as quickly as possible.

21. Currently, NPDC is fully committed to destroying the futures of the young people living in the district and elsewhere via resource depletion and environmental collapse, as indicated by the huge display in the council foyer which announces that NPDC spends 2c of every dollar collected promoting economic growth. (Economic growth equates to increased resource consumption and increased emissions.)

22. The present economy has no future because of energy depletion and because it is increasing the level of pollution, both locally and globally. Continuation on the present path of searching for and burning fossil fuels results in an uninhabitable planet within decades. Drastically reducing fuel consumption leading to total abandonment of fossil fuels is the only sane option. (It may be too late for that, but it is still the only sane option.)

23. This is not a matter of priorities. Surely there can be no priority higher than ensuring the next generation has a habitable planet to live on. The system ignores the most important priority of all, and therefore the system is INSANE.

24. Everyone within the system pretends nothing is wrong and that the system has a future even when a modicum of rational thought indicates it doesn’t (infinite growth on a finite planet is mathematically impossible.)

25. The composition of the new council give us no reason for optimism and many reasons for extreme pessimism.

26. The main reason the general populace of the district continues to ‘behave badly’ -purchase and use oversized vehicles, cover land with concrete and asphalt, consume at unsustainable levels etc.- is because they are encouraged to by NPDC. The only message they get from the council is that everything is rosy (when the reverse is the case and we are mightily close to collapse).

27. The overuse of internal combustion engines is causing severe health problems globally and within the district. Coupled with consumption of junk food, mechanized transport is causing obesity and other diseases. Consumerism is generating a freak society, and each week that passes the ‘freak show’ becomes more bizarre.

28. There is a culture of ‘spend, spend, spend’ amongst council officers, with utterly ridiculous projects being undertaken. Apart from being totally unnecessary, these concrete and steel projects put additional CO2 into the atmosphere and bring forward abrupt climate change and an uninhabitable planet, are financially crippling the district, and pushing those on low fixed incomes ‘off the cliff’.

29. I pointed out that I spoke with Gary Bedford, regional environment officer, prior to returning to NP in 2006, and raised the matters of Peak Oil and Abrupt Climate Change; he ‘did not want to know’ and has done nothing whatsoever to protect the district. Indeed, he is on record as making absurd statements such as: “Climate change will be good for Taranaki.” I wish to have a follow-up session with him.

30. I have been proven right on practically everything I said in 2006 and subsequently to variously composed councils since 2006. Council officers have been proven consistently wrong. But it makes no difference how often council officers are proven wrong, nothing in the system changes and the insanity continues.

31. NPDC has been provided with the most accurate data and analysis available over many years (particularly my submission to the draft plan 2013), and NPDC has ignored it all. Hence, everything that matters has gotten worse and will continue to get worse by the day.

32. As far as I can establish, Colin Comber is the only council officer in a position to challenge the nonsense churned out by the bulk of the administration, in so far as all the policies advocated by senior council officers result in increased emissions and an ever faster meltdown of the global and local environment. I pointed out to him that he has ‘sat on his hands’ since our first meeting (around 6 years ago) and everything has gotten worse as a consequence.

Notes:

*John Key: NZ Prime Minister.

**Jonathan Young: MP for the city

***Andrew Little: List Labour MP for the city (MMP system).

Andre Judd: recently elected (October 2013) mayor of the city.

What is particularly interesting for me is that Jonathan Young, Andrew Little and Andrew Judd all have copies of my most recent book ‘The Easy Way’ (which details most of what is discussed on CoIC and NBL etc.) and that I had several sessions with Andrew Little on the content of TEW, and numerous sessions with Andrew Judd prior to his election.

Old habits die hard, but if you’re a smoker and you’ve got stage 3 cancer staring you in the face, the only two options are to radically change your behavior or die with your bad habits. We’ve already destroyed the Earth’s air conditioner which has altered the Jet Streams, unlocked the methane monster, and set off various other positive feedback loops ushering in a new normal of extreme weather. As a result, humans no longer enjoy a stable climate within which to cultivate food and can no longer depend on feshwater supply from seasonal snow melt. Yes, it’s rather a bit too late, but why keep digging when the hole you are in is already way too deep?

71CJ9qM2KOL._SL1200_

The Sky Is Falling: Chicken Little Was Right All Along, By Don Wilkin « Speaking Truth to Power

The Sky Is Falling: Chicken Little Was Right All Along, By Don Wilkin « Speaking Truth to Power.

ChickenMy obsession with sustainability dates back to 1969, the year I started my doctoral dissertation on human carrying capacity.  I became aware that there was real danger of overshooting that capacity and that if we consumed enough of our ecological capital, we risked a population crash and even possible human extinction.  In the meantime, I warned, we could expect a long, bumpy slide into poverty as resources were used up.  Colleagues accused me of sounding like Chicken Little.

Since then, our exploding consumption, while causing a modest (but temporary) reduction in poverty, has been confused with real prosperity despite global resources having been ravaged and inequality having ballooned to record heights.  I was guilty of underestimating our greed and overestimating the time we had left.  It wasn’t until this last decade that ecological footprint analysis confirmed we had already overshot Earth’s carrying capacity back in the early ‘70s.

The overshoot is now in its fifth decade and continues to gather momentum as the ultimate human ecological disaster:  mass extinction, fisheries depletion, aquifer overpumping, nonrenewable natural resource depletion, soil erosion, glacial melting, ocean acidification, nuclear waste accumulation, more violent storms, rising sea levels, skyrocketing  food prices, plummeting energy return on energy invested, growing numbers of permanently displaced environmental refugees, and growing global financial instability.  Regrettably, 79 million net new people join the global mayhem each year, yet we don’t seem particularly concerned about it, assuming, I suppose, it will take care of itself.  It will.  No one will want to be around when that happens, though.

I am well aware, after nearly a half century of trying, that my sense of impending doom is not widely shared.  The sun still shines, gas tanks are full of ethanol, fridges are fully stocked with thousand-mile salads and 3000-mile bananas, and we are warm and cozy.  Few can even conceive of the possibility of an impending collapse of human civilization, but there are notable exceptions.  My angst is shared by those who, like myself, have studied critical resources in detail and have come to similarly dark conclusions about our future possibilities:  James Hansen, climate; Lester Brown, food production; Craig Dilworth, technology; Chris Clugston, nonrenewable natural resources; Paul Ehrlich, population; Richard Heinberg, fossil fuels; Julian Cribb, agriculture; Paul Farrell, global capital; and Jared Diamond, eco-social collapse, to name a few.  Regrettably, putting lipstick on the pig, their warnings are too often couched in false hope – or as a friend of mine calls it – hopium.  “We can avoid the breakdown of human civilization if only we will work together to (fill in the blank,) if we do it quickly enough.”  One or two of them have likened our situation to being of the same urgency with which we mobilized for World War II.  I’m afraid it is at least that compelling and even that may not prove enough.

In a recent analysis of the world’s nonrenewable natural resources (NNRs), author Chris Clugston found that, as of the economic collapse of 2008, 63 of our 89 most critical NNRs were globally scarce.  In a private conversation, he believed that 2008 was the peak of human material well-being and he expected, after plateauing for maybe a decade, it would be sharply downhill from there.  In 2012, he stated his belief that global economic/societal collapse was “possible within the next 5 years, probable within 15, and all but certain within 25.”  The year 2017 struck an ominous note because that was the deadline the International Energy Agency gave us for substantially reducing carbon emissions or risking runaway global climate change.  We’ve made virtually no progress since their warning.  Quite the contrary.  A highly fracked economy (no pun intended) has more than fully “recovered” from its 2008 meltdown and we’re off to the GDP races once again, setting new records for energy consumption every year.  Though economists rejoice, climate scientists and ecologists shudder.

The Global Footprint Network has been refining their methods for several decades now.  Their analyses are solid.  When they say we are consuming 50% more than Earth’s annual ecological restorative capacity, you can be sure it’s at least that, and such profligacy has to have consequences.  Their analysis shows that, since 1970, Earth’s overall restorative capacity has declined by almost half while the human population has more than doubled and overall resource consumption has increased even more.  This suggests that, by 2060, it could all be over – no more reserve bio-capacity left anywhere.  That’s when human death rates must necessarily skyrocket, if they haven’t already.

Deny-ers insist we’re doing just fine.  As technologically gifted as we are and with God on our side wanting us all to be rich, we will work it out with little personal discomfort or sacrifice.  The world’s plummeting ecological capacity puts the lie to such Pollyannish delusions.  By the time reality sets in, our global ecological accounts will be all but empty and there won’t be anything left to restore.

The physical impossibility of continuing as we presently are for more than another few decades seems lost on the vast majority, despite the clarity and preponderance of all monitored trends now.  If only a handful of us and practically no public officials really believe such a meltdown is coming, what can realistically be done to prepare for it?  Can we avoid having to reduce our population?  Couldn’t we all just live more sustainably?  Fat chance.  It isn’t reasonable to expect the third-world, now experiencing for the first time the goodies they have watched middle class Americans enjoy for generations, to voluntarily cut back on their newly acquired tastes for personal vehicles, computers, cell phones, meat, milk, and eggs.  Nor, in truth, are formerly-middle-class Americans likely to give up too much more than they already have.  People don’t commonly volunteer to live in deeper poverty, no matter how worthy the cause, having once experienced the benefits of wealth, privilege, and relative immunity from disease, crime, and violence.  Typical half-hearted attempts at sustainable lifestyles in the western world won’t forestall global economic collapse anyway and they could even trigger it.  The optimum time for funding alternative energy with a good stiff carbon tax was about twenty years ago.

Despite well-meaning attempts by many of my friends to live more sustainably, I am convinced the only equitable, humane, and effective way to pull our fat out of the fire at this late date, if it could be done at all, would be to immediately and dramatically reduce human fertility worldwide to half of replacement for the next three to four generations, somewhere between “one or none” and “one will do, stop at two.”   All other attempts to live more sustainably would be – in fact are being – entirely undone by our huge and growing numbers.  Such restraint would have to continue until we got our numbers WAY down, certainly below a billion, and possibly below half a billion depending on how long it took.  That level of voluntary reproductive restraint, I don’t need to tell you, would be unprecedented in human history.  Economic collapse is a far more probable resolution to our overshoot problem.

Realistically, most of us won’t survive global economic collapse.  The vast majority of us have neither the skills nor the resources to survive in a purely local economy.  Despite the earnest efforts of groups like Sierra Club and the Transitions network, it is unlikely that anything can now stop the global economy – and human civilization with it – from collapsing around our heads sometime in the next two to four decades.  Most will apparently blithely continue to enjoy our final faux prosperity while it lasts.  By the time the meltdown gets their full and undivided attention, it will be too late.  The only question then will be how many, if any, will survive to start the insanity all over again?  God forbid.

I take little comfort in being old enough to be cashing in my chips before the most serious stages of civilization’s decline and collapse.  That doesn’t make it any better for my kids and grandkids.  I feel we owe them a realistic assessment of the predicament we have left them.  My heartfelt warning to them is that children born today are probably being sentenced, should they survive to adulthood, to living through the darkest period of human history.  The decision to bring a child into the world today is – or should be – an excruciating one, a choice between small hope for a survivable future with starkly limited opportunities versus a far higher probability of a much more debased, dispiriting one.

I personally would choose not to reproduce now even if I could (my vasectomy has sealed that path.)  If this past century represents the pinnacle of human ability to sustainably manage and equitably share our global commons, and if, despite our (apparently benumbed) big brains and digital libraries overflowing with the accumulated wisdom of all human history, we can aspire to no higher economic goals than ever-greater material consumption, constant growth, and perpetual crowding at the expense of all other species on this planet, including other humans, it might be better if human reproduction were put on the evolutionary back burner for a very long while.  Only a radical pruning provides any hope for a post-human “founder” population sometime in the future with substantially more reverent attitudes toward Earth and more caring and social responsibility toward one another.

A final point – one can guarantee an argument merely by suggesting the need to stabilize, let alone reduce, human numbers.  After worshiping at the altar of perpetual growth for 200 years, that’s pure sacrilege.  One can elicit even greater anger by pointing out that what evolutionary success we have had to this point has been a result of inborn proto-socialist tendencies in all human beings.  We are a modestly evolved social mammal, and socialist (small “s”) – or mutualistic – or cooperative – communities have been central to whatever evolutionary success we have enjoyed as a species.  This fact suggests the best and possibly only way forward from here, at least for an insightful few.  To wit:

If we do manage to pull back from the abyss, or if enough of us survive the plunge, it will surely be because small groups of us have formed mutualistic communities for the express purpose of helping one another eke out a largely local living from a depleted planet Earth. We will be painfully aware, by then, that a sustainable lifestyle must involve subordinating our reproductive inclinations to the long-term well-being, not just of our own community, but of the larger ecological community on which our well-being depends.  We will certainly understand that a global ecosystem is a sacred trust that demands our respect and, yes, our reverence.  Finally, we will need the humility to understand that we need a healthy global ecosystem far more than it needs us, and that we need to invest at least as much of our treasure in husbanding that priceless natural legacy as in pursuing our own material well-being.

Don Wilkin is a Human Ecologist and may be contacted at: wilkin@olympus.net

 

 

Disillusioned in Dismayland – Collapse of Industrial Civilization | Finding the Truth behind the American Hologram

Collapse of Industrial Civilization | Finding the Truth behind the American Hologram.

original

Capitalism has, throughout its history, built itself off the backs of the weak through dispossession, slavery, colonialism, technology and military power. Protecting the capitalist system into the 21st century, U.S. military served as the all-powerful proxy force of the global corporate elite. In the waning days of modern-day civilization, transnational corporations found even more ways to amass power and squeeze out every last penny from the Earth to the gods of capital. In the name of ‘free trade’, secretive agreements with alphabet soup-acronyms like TTP and TPIP were concocted to protect and expand profits as well as investor returns at the expense of all else, including the sovereignty of nations and the very habitability of the planet. Corporations became the new kings and queens, tsars and tsaritsas, bishops and popes. The last grab for what was left could now be done more swiftly while circumventing the laws of nations.

…Capitalism has an inbuilt wondrous capacity of resurrection and regeneration; though this is capacity of a kind shared with parasites – organisms that feed on other organisms, belonging to other species. After a complete or near-complete exhaustion of one host organism, a parasite tends and manages to find another, that would supply it with life juices for a successive, albeit also limited, stretch of time.

A hundred years ago Rosa Luxemburg grasped that secret of the eerie, phoenix-like ability of capitalism to rise, repeatedly, from the ashes; an ability that leaves behind a track of devastation – the history of capitalism is marked by the graves of living organisms sucked of their life juices to exhaustion…” ~ Zygmunt Bauman

In a world of finite resources controlled by a tiny capitalist class, there would eventually only be two classes remaining – the über-wealthy or global elite and the vast underclass of disposable workers who eked out a subsistence existence. The wealth of society continued to be funneled upwards to the corporate overlords by way of deregulation, privatization, low or nonexistent tax rates, control of the legal system, and the cutting away of any last scraps of a social safety net.

Preoccupied by their digital screen devices and satiated on mass-produced junk food, the plebs never really noticed they were living in an open-air prison. In the meantime, the walls of a police state rose up to protect the sociopathic elite. As long as the ‘consumers’ were kept in a continual state of ‘amusement madness’ and on the treadmill of work exhaustion, there would be no time for contemplating the reality of climate change, the ever-widening wealth gap, the rise of a corporate fascist state, or the disappearance of the natural world.

Living in an age of advertisement, we are perpetually disillusioned. The perfect life is spread before us every day, but it changes and withers at a touch.
J. B. Priestley

hollywood_cliff

This Ponzi scheme economy was so entrenched in the psyche of the general populace that essentially none questioned its validity, even in the face of increasingly chaotic weather and rising seas, mountains of toxic waste, lifeless oceans, epidemic industrial disease, and grotesque wealth maldistribution. The right to seek profit trumped the health and safety of humans, the stability of the environment, and the legal recourse of governments on behalf of their citizens. National borders were effectively erased and a global corporatocracy now ruled the planet. Ironically, the one world government feared by so many right-wing conspiracists had become reality without any protest from them.

Acid rain and erratic weather, the unintended consequences of half-baked geoengineering fixes, forced most food production into industrial greenhouses. Due to the chemical pollution levels in the environment, all water had to be treated before it was used for anything, and gas masks became ‘everyday outdoor wear’ like hats and umbrellas. Most stayed indoors to escape such hazards, immersing themselves in the artificial environments of virtual reality software. Zoos became the only sanctuaries for wildlife, their sperm safely kept frozen for the day humans might want to de-extinctify them. National parks were privatized and plastered with corporate logos. The ranks of the homeless and destitute swelled, but most soon found themselves living inside the cell of a private, for-profit prison where they toiled away as cheap labor contracted by the corporations. Such crises were always looked upon as business opportunities, a niche to fill in the profit-seeking mind of homo economicus. Commodification and commercialization of everything became completely normalized.

20130207-214730

Taken to the extreme and turned into a rigid belief system, all ideologies can become dangerous. When the ethics of a society bow to laissez-faire capitalism, life in the U$A becomes a cruel joke:

Need I go further? The day that the movie ‘Idiocracy’ is looked upon as genius and prophetic, civilization will have become a parody of itself. I think that day has arrived.

 

Idiocracy

Idiocracy

 

2013 Likely To Be One Of The Hottest Years Ever As Warming Trend Continues, WMO Says

2013 Likely To Be One Of The Hottest Years Ever As Warming Trend Continues, WMO Says

By Alister Doyle and Michael SzaboWARSAW, Nov 13 (Reuters) – This year is the seventh warmest since records began in 1850 with a trend to weather extremes and the impact of storms such as Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines aggravated by rising sea levels, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on Wednesday.A build-up of manmade greenhouse gases in the atmosphere meant a warmer future was now inevitable, WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said in a statement on the sidelines of U.N. climate talks among almost 200 nations in Warsaw.The WMO, giving a provisional overview, said the first nine months of the year tied with the same period of 2003 as seventh warmest, with average global land and ocean surface temperatures 0.48°C (0.86°F) above the 1961-1990 average.”This year once again continues the underlying, long-term trend,” towards higher temperatures caused by global warming, Jarraud said. The WMO said it was likely to end among the top 10 warmest years since records began in 1850.

Among extremes have been super typhoon Haiyan, one of the most intense storms in history that smashed into the Philippines last Friday.

President Benigno Aquino said local officials had overstated the loss of life, which was closer to 2,000 or 2,500 than the 10,000 previously estimated. His comments, however, drew scepticism from some aid workers.

AUSTRALIA HEATWAVE

Other extremes this year have included record heatwaves in Australia and floods from Sudan to Europe, the WMO said. Japan had its warmest summer on record.

Apparently bucking a warming trend, sea ice around Antarctica expanded to a record extent. But the WMO said: “Wind patterns and ocean currents tend to isolate Antarctica from global weather patterns, keeping it cold.”

In September, The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) raised the probability that mankind was the main cause of warming since 1950 to at least 95 percent from 90 in a previous assessment in 2007.

It predicted impacts including more heatwaves, downpours and rising sea levels.

“2010 was the warmest year on record, ahead of 2005 and 1998,” the WMO said.

The IPCC said the pace of temperature rises at the Earth’s surface has slowed slightly in recent years in what the panel called a “hiatus” that may be linked to big natural variations and factors such as the ocean absorbing more heat.

The WMO said that individual tropical cyclones, such as Haiyan, could not be directly attributed to the effects of climate change.

But “higher sea levels are already making coastal populations more vulnerable to storm surges. We saw this with tragic consequences in the Philippines,” Jarraud said. Seas have risen by about 20 cms (8 inches) in the past century.

As of early November 2013, there had been 86 tropical cyclones, from typhoons to Atlantic hurricanes, closing in on the 1981-2010 average of 89 storms, the WMO said. (Reporting By Alister Doyle; editing by Ralph Boulton)

ALSO ON HUFFPOST:

Loading Slideshow...
  • Sweet Snorkeling Pics

    As humans increase atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, oceans absorb some of the CO2. The resulting drop in ocean pH, known as ocean acidification, has been called climate change’s “equally evil twin” by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration chief Jane Lubchenco. Coral reefs, which are an invaluable part of marine ecosystems and tourism economies, are threatened by ocean warming and acidification. At the 2012 International Coral Reef Symposium in Cairns, Australia, 2,600 scientists signed a petition calling for international action to preserve global coral reefs, reported the BBC. Noting that 25 to 30 percent of the world’s reefs are already “severely degraded,” the statement asserts that “climate-related stressors [represent] an unprecedented challenge for the future of coral reefs and to the services they provide to people.” A recent report from the World Resources Institute found that the Coral Triangle, an important area from central Southeast Asia to the edge of the western Pacific with many reefs, is threatened at a rate far greater than the global average.

  • Wine Tasting Parties

    Winegrowers in France’s Champagne region and scientists have already seen changes in the past 25 years, reported The New York Times last year. They have “noted major changes in their vineyards, including an increased sugar content in the grapes from which they make their wine, with a consequent decrease in acidity, and a harvest time that regularly comes two weeks earlier than it once did.” Last year, the Telegraph reported that Bordeaux, one of the world’s most famous wine-producing regions, may be “unsuitable for wine-growing by 2050.” Yale Environment 360 explains that many European wines are tied to a specific geographical area, creating a problem for regions which may soon find themselves most suited to a new kind of grape. In the U.S., researchers at Stanford University found that climate change could mean “50% less land suitable for cultivating premium wine grapes in high-value areas of Northern California.” A 2006 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that “up to 81 percent” of “premium-wine-grape production area” could decline in the U.S. by the end of this century, reported Wired. Without any adaptation measures, wine-grape production could disappear from “many areas” of the country. Wired notes, “By the law of supply and demand, that suggests the best wines of tomorrow will cost even more than the ridiculous amounts they fetch today.”

  • Winnie The Pooh’s Key Plot Point

    <a href=”http://usda01.library.cornell.edu/usda/current/Hone/Hone-03-30-2012.pdf&#8221; target=”_hplink”>According to the USDA, bee populations are dropping nationwide</a>. Wetter winters and rainy summers make it harder for bees to get out and about to collect, leaving them to starve or become malnourished and more prone to other diseases. This doesn’t just mean a decline in honey. We rely on bees to pollinate crops. When bees disappear, many food crops could also die off.

  • Spring Break, Wohoo!

    As global temperatures rise this century, sea levels are also expected to increase. South Florida may be hit particularly hard. If greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced, global sea levels could rise over three feet by 2100, with a six foot rise possible. The U.S. Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming notes:

    This threatens to submerge Florida’s coastal communities and economies since roughly 9 percent of the state is within 5 feet of the existing sea level. Rising sea level also threatens the beaches, wetlands, and mangrove forests that surround the state.

    University of Florida professor Jack Putz said in 2008, “People have a hard time accepting that this is happening here,” reported the Tampa Bay Times. Seeing dead palm trees and other impacts “brings a global problem right into our own back yard,” he added. Click here to see a map showing what different levels of sea level rise would look like for Florida and other states.

  • Cute Baby Polar Bear Videos

    A November 2011 study found that polar bear litters are getting smaller as climate change causes sea ice decline. <a href=”http://www.worldwildlife.org/who/media/press/2011/WWFPresitem19837.html&#8221; target=”_hplink”>According to World Wildlife Fund</a>, the study “found that if spring sea ice break-up occurs one month earlier than usual, 40-73 percent of pregnant females could fail to bring cubs to term.” The National Snow and Ice Data Center found that in 2010, <a href=”http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=49132&src=share&#8221; target=”_hplink”>Arctic sea ice</a> was at its lowest January level in 30 years. With decreased sea ice, polar bears may have greater trouble finding food sources. This could lead to cannibalism, which has already been observed by photographers. Environmental photojournalist Jenny Ross <a href=”http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-16081214&#8243; target=”_hplink”>told BBC News</a> in 2011, “There are increasing numbers of observations of it occurring, particularly on land where polar bears are trapped ashore, completely food-deprived for extended periods of time due to the loss of sea ice as a result of climate change.”

  • PB&Js

    Thanks to a failing peanut crop due to last summer’s scorching hot weather, <a href=”http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/10/peanut-butter-price-jump_n_1003732.html&#8221; target=”_hplink”>there was a shortage of peanuts in supply</a> at the end of 2011. If temperatures continue to rise, a jump in peanut butter prices is just the prelude to what could be in store for the beloved spread.

  • Chocolate Cravings

    <a href=”http://www.ciat.cgiar.org/Newsroom/Documents/ghana_ivory_coast_climate_change_and_cocoa.pdf&#8221; target=”_hplink”>A report released by the International Center For Tropical Agriculture </a>warns chocolate could become a luxury item if farmers don’t adapt to rising temperatures in Ghana and the Ivory Coast, where a majority of the world’s cocoa is grown. The October 2011 report, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, “calls for increased research into heat and drought resistant crops, and to help transition cocoa farming to new regions that will be suitable for production in the future,” <a href=”http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2011/09/30/332951/chocolate-climate-change-cocoa-industry-study/&#8221; target=”_hplink”>reported ThinkProgress</a>.

  • ‘Friday Night Lights’ & ‘Varsity Blues’

    As average temperatures rise over the course of this century, states in the Southern U.S. are expected to see a greater number of days with temperatures over 90 degrees Fahrenheit each year. Hotter temperatures will mean that football players in the South will face a greater risk of hyperthermia, explains GE’s TXCHNOLOGIST blog. ThinkProgress suggests, “Indeed, it is the conservative southern U.S., especially the South central and South east, who have led the way in blocking serious climate action, as it were, making yesterday’s worst-case scenario into today’s likely outcome.”

  • Not Sneezing

    Bad news for allergy sufferers — climate change, and specifically warmer temperatures, <a href=”http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/31/seasonal-allergies-rising_n_913650.html&#8221; target=”_hplink”>may bring more pollen and ragweed</a>, according to a <a href=”http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21259264&#8243; target=”_hplink”>2011 study</a> from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. Along with allergies, a changing climate may be tied to more infectious diseases. <a href=”http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/17/flu-pandemic-climate-pattern-la-nina_n_1211480.html&#8221; target=”_hplink”>According to one study</a>, climate change could affect wild bird migratory patterns, increasing the chances for human flu pandemics. Illnesses like <a href=”http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/04/global-warming-lyme-disease-west-nile_n_1400692.html&#8221; target=”_hplink”>Lyme disease could also become more prominent</a>.

  • Keg Stands

    Famed for producing some of the world’s best beer, <a href=”http://www.nature.com/news/2008/080502/full/news.2008.799.html&#8221; target=”_hplink”>Germany could suffer from a drop in production due to climate change-induced water shortages</a>. Barley and hops can only be grown with water, and using cheaper alternatives like corn isn’t possible in Germany because of <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reinheitsgebot&#8221; target=”_hplink”>strict regulations</a> about what you can make beer with. Research published earlier this year in the journal <a href=”http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v2/n7/full/nclimate1491.html&#8221; target=”_hplink”><em>Nature Climate Change</em></a> found that “unless farmers develop more heat-tolerant corn varieties or gradually move corn production from the United States into Canada, frequent heat waves will cause sharp price spikes,” <a href=”http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/23/business/climate-change-effect-seen-for-corn-prices.html&#8221; target=”_hplink”>reported <em>The New York Times</em></a>. Price spikes for U.S. corn could affect prices of <a href=”http://beeradvocate.com/beer/style/38/&#8221; target=”_hplink”>American macrobrews</a> made with an <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adjuncts&#8221; target=”_hplink”>adjunct ingredient like corn</a>.

  • Valentine’s Day Cliches

    With higher temperatures expected in northern latitudes in coming decades, the U.K. has begun a program to develop strawberries that will survive in higher temperatures with less water. Since chocolate also may be threatened, could sexy chocolate-covered strawberries, a Valentine’s Day staple, be endangered? <a href=”http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthnews/8603607/Climate-change-resistant-strawberries.html&#8221; target=”_hplink”>According to <em>The Telegraph</em></a>, Dr. David Simpson, a scientist with England’s East Malling Research, said last year, “Consumer demand for fresh strawberries in the UK has been growing year on year since the early 1990s. The British growers have done a great job of increasing their productivity to satisfy this demand between April and October. The future will be challenging due to the impacts of climate change and the withdrawal of many pesticides but the breeding programme at EMR is using the latest scientific approaches to develop a range of varieties that will meet the needs of our growers for the future.”

  • Coffeehouse Snobs

    Coffee lovers may want to get that caffeine fix before the treasured drink becomes a rare export. Starbucks raised the issue last year when the company’s director of sustainability told <em>The Guardian</em> that <a href=”http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/16/starbucks-climate-change_n_1011222.html&#8221; target=”_hplink”>climate change is threatening the supply chain</a> for the Arabica coffee bean. Starbucks Sustainability Director <a href=”http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2011/oct/13/starbucks-coffee-climate-change-threat?newsfeed=true&#8221; target=”_hplink”>Jim Hanna told the paper</a>, “What we are really seeing as a company as we look 10, 20, 30 years down the road – if conditions continue as they are – is a potentially significant risk to our supply chain, which is the Arabica coffee bean.”

  • Water Out West

    According to a 2011 U.S. Interior Department report, “annual flows in three prominent river basins – the Colorado, Rio Grande and San Joaquin – could decline by as much [as] 8 percent to 14 percent over the next four decades,” reported the Associated Press. Expected changes in temperature and precipitation are likely to alter river flows “with increased flooding possible in the winter due to early snowmelt and water shortages in the summer due to reductions in spring and summer runoffs.” Mike Connor, commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, said, “Impacts to water are on the leading edge of global climate change.” Earlier this year, the Bureau of Reclamation asked the public to suggest ideas for meeting future water demand around the Colorado River basin.

  • Rudolph (And Donner And Blitzen)

    Reindeer, also known as “caribou” in North America, could face a difficult future in a warmer climate. <a href=”http://www.usnews.com/news/energy/slideshows/10-animals-threatened-by-global-warming&#8221; target=”_hplink”>According to U.S. News & World Report</a>, “Russell Graham, associate professor of geosciences and director of the Earth and Mineral Sciences Museum at Penn State University, says global warming will most harm the animals adapted to the coldest environments, primarily those accustomed to life in the Arctic.” A 2008 study found that caribou in West Greenland are “now arriving after peak foraging time, fewer calves are being born and more calves are dying,” <a href=”http://www.sciencenews.org/view/feature/id/341435/title/Animals_on_the_Move&#8221; target=”_hplink”>reported ScienceNews</a>.

  • Yummy Pancake Breakfasts

    It may be a bit harder to drown your pancakes in maple syrup in the future, <a href=”http://greenliving.nationalgeographic.com/effects-global-warming-maple-syrup-production-20078.html&#8221; target=”_hplink”>studies suggest</a>. According to <a href=”http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/Nov10/SyrupClimate.html&#8221; target=”_hplink”>a 2010 Cornell University study</a>, “maple syrup production in the Northeast is expected to slightly decline by 2100, and the window for tapping trees will move earlier by about a month.” Additionally, most maple syrup production south of Pennsylvania “will likely be lost by 2100 due to lack of freezing.” <a href=”http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2012/01/no-maple-syrup-2100&#8243; target=”_hplink”>Click here to watch one farmer’s fight to save New Hampshire’s sugar maples.</a>

  • Gone Fishin’

    According to a <a href=”http://www.nrdc.org/globalwarming/ntrout.asp&#8221; target=”_hplink”>2002 study by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Defenders of Wildlife</a>, a warming planet does not bode well for species that thrive in cold streams. The study found that “global warming is likely to spur the disappearance of trout and salmon from as much as 18 to 38 percent of their current habitat by the year 2090.” A 2011 study published in the <em>Proceedings of the National Academies of Science</em> produced “models [which] forecast significant declines in trout habitat across the interior western United States in the 21st century,” <a href=”http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/08/16/trout-fishing-in-a-climate-changed-america/&#8221; target=”_hplink”>reported <em>The New York Times</em></a>. The study claims, “The decline will have significant socioeconomic consequences as recreational trout fisheries are valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars in the United States alone.”

  • NYC’s Waterfront Real Estate

    According to a 2012 report from New Jersey-based nonprofit <a href=”http://sealevel.climatecentral.org/&#8221; target=”_hplink”>Climate Central</a>, thousands of New York City residents may be at risk for severe <a href=”http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/15/rising-sea-levels-threate_n_1347333.html&#8221; target=”_hplink”>coastal flooding as a result of climate change</a>. <a href=”http://slr.s3.amazonaws.com/factsheets/New_York.pdf&#8221; target=”_hplink”>Climate Central explains</a>, “the NY metro area hosts the nation’s highest-density populations vulnerable to sea level rise.” They argue, “the funnel shape of New York Harbor has the potential to magnify storm surges already supplemented by sea level rise, threatening widespread areas of New York City.”

  • The Best Part Of July 4th

    With droughts and wildfires hitting many parts of the U.S., municipalities from <a href=”http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/03/colorado-wildfires-2012-f_n_1647571.html&#8221; target=”_hplink”>Colorado</a> to <a href=”http://www.nashvillescene.com/pitw/archives/2012/07/03/climate-change-is-totally-ruining-your-4th-of-july&#8221; target=”_hplink”>Tennessee</a> canceled July 4th public fireworks displays or banned personal fireworks this year, citing the fire hazards they posed. In June, a <a href=”http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/12/climate-change-wildfires_n_1588741.html&#8221; target=”_hplink”>study published in the journal <em>Ecosphere</em></a> found that almost all of North America will see more wildfires by 2100, reported Reuters. The study’s lead author, Max Moritz, said, “In the long run, we found what most fear – increasing fire activity across large areas of the planet.”

  • The Non-.com Amazon

    Along with deforestation, climate change also poses a serious threat to South America’s Amazon rainforest. A 2009 study from the U.K. Met Office found that a global temperature rise of four degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels would cause 85 percent of the Amazon to die off in the next 100 years. Even a two degree Celsius rise would kill 20 to 40 percent of the rainforest, reported the Guardian. In May, The Club of Rome think tank predicted a global average temperatures rise of “2 degrees Celsius by 2052 and a 2.8 degree rise by 2080,” reported Reuters. Jorgen Randers, author of the club’s report, said, “It is unlikely that governments will pass necessary regulation to force the markets to allocate more money into climate-friendly solutions, and (we) must not assume that markets will work for the benefit of humankind.” He added, “We are emitting twice as much greenhouse gases every year as are absorbed by the world’s forests and oceans. This overshoot will worsen and will peak in 2030.”

  • Island Getaways

    As global sea levels rise during the 21st century, low-lying island nations like the Maldives could see their very existence threatened. With a three to six foot sea level rise predicted by 2100, nations like the Maldives could become uninhabitable, explained The New York Times. Maldives’ former president, Mohamed Nasheed, has been a tireless campaigner for the urgent need for countries to take action against climate change, arguing “You can’t pick and choose on science.”

  • Ski Bums

    Although seasonal fluctuations occur and El Nino/La Nina weather patterns affect snowfall, global temperature rise may impact conditions for skiers and boarders. “The long-term trend is less snow and earlier snowmelt. This means more frustration for snow sport enthusiasts and a negative impact on the snow sports industry,” writes the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Theo Spencer. In May, a snow-less ski race was held in Aspen, Colorado to “highlight the effect climate change has on the outdoor recreation industry,” reported the Associated Press.

  • Thanksgiving Dinner Food Comas

    A 2010 paper in the journal <em>Food Research International</em> found that climate change may one day affect the cost and quality of traditional Thanksgiving dishes, <a href=”http://news.discovery.com/earth/thanksgiving-climate-change.html&#8221; target=”_hplink”>reported Discovery News</a>. Future temperature rises could impact the quality of turkey meat. Additionally, foods like “pumpkins, sweet potatoes, potatoes, grains [and] green beans … will be sensitive to water shortages should they arise,” study author Neville Gregory told Discovery News. In fact, common Thanksgiving foods were <a href=”http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/21/thanksgiving-dinner-battles-weather_n_1099899.html&#8221; target=”_hplink”>impacted by weather events in 2011</a>, with shortages and price spikes hitting over the holidays.

  • The Views On Your Alaska Vacation

    Earlier this year, researchers from the U.S. Forest Service confirmed that climate warming is killing southeast Alaska’s mighty yellow cedars. The study, published in the journal Bioscience, found that with decreasing snow cover, the trees’ shallow roots are more vulnerable to freezing, reported AP. Paul Schaberg, a U.S. Forest Service plant pathologist, said, “As time goes on and climates change even more, other species, other locations, are likely to experience similar kinds of progressions, so you might do well to understand this one so you can address those future things.”

  • “Lady & The Tramp”-Like Scenes

    Scientists at the British Met Office warn that Italy may soon be forced to<a href=”http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/climate-threat-to-italys-pasta/story-e6frg6so-1225797946930&#8243; target=”_hplink”> import the basic ingredients to make pasta because climate change will make it impossible to grow durum wheat domestically</a>. The crop could almost disappear from the country later this century, scientists say.

  • Home Sweet Home (For Kiribatians)

    Along with the Maldives and other island nations, Kiribati is also threatened by climate change. Earlier this year, the president’s cabinet endorsed a plan to spend about $9.6 million for 6,000 acres on Fiji’s main island, reported AP. President Anote Tong told AP, “We would hope not to put everyone on one piece of land, but if it became absolutely necessary, yes, we could do it.” He added, “It wouldn’t be for me, personally, but would apply more to a younger generation. For them, moving won’t be a matter of choice. It’s basically going to be a matter of survival.”

  • Super Duper Fast Wi-Fi Connection

    A 2011 report from the U.K.’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs found that climate change could affect certain infrastructure, like wireless internet. <a href=”http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/may/09/climate-change-wi-fi-connections&#8221; target=”_hplink”>The <em>Guardian</em> reports</a>, “higher temperatures can reduce the range of wireless communications, rainstorms can impact the reliability of the signal, and drier summers and wetter winters may cause greater subsidence, damaging masts and underground cables,” according to secretary of state for the environment. The <em>Guardian</em> notes, “The government acknowledges that the impact of climate change on telecommunications is not well understood, but the report raises a series of potential risks.”

  • The Great Smoky Mountains’ Smoke

    The Great Smoky Mountains have the most annual rainfall in the southeastern U.S., which mostly falls as a light, misty rain, <a href=”http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/28/great-smoky-mountains-climate-change_n_1461482.html&#8221; target=”_hplink”>explains OurAmazingPlanet</a>. A study by a team from NASA’s Precipitation Measurement Missions found that “light rainfall is the dominant form of precipitation in the region, accounting for 50 to 60 percent of a year’s total, governing the regional water cycle.” <a href=”http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/28/great-smoky-mountains-climate-change_n_1461482.html&#8221; target=”_hplink”>OurAmazingPlanet</a> notes: <blockquote>The results suggest the area may be more susceptible to climate change than thought; as temperatures rise, more of the fine droplets from light rain will evaporate in the air and fail to reach the ground. Lower elevations will have to contend with not only higher temperatures, but less cloud cover.</blockquote>

  • California Beach Bums

    Along the California coast, beach communities are finding that it may be impossible to stop coastal erosion as global sea levels rise. According to AP, David Revell, a senior coastal scientist at ESA PWA, acknowledged the relentless power of the sea, saying, “I like to think of it as getting out of the way gracefully.” A report released in June by the Natural Resources Defense Council found that West Coast ocean levels will rise several inches in the next few decades. Sea levels along the California coast are expected to be six inches higher by 2030 and three feet higher by the end of the century. Despite the risks, another recent NRDC study found that California is one of several states with the best plans to deal with the effects of climate change.

  • Repeats Of The Titanic

    2012 could be a record year for the extent of Arctic sea ice at its yearly summer minimum. Walt Meier, a research scientist at the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center, said that with recent satellite observations, “It definitely portends a low-ice year, whether it means it will go below 2007 (the record minimum in September), it is too early to tell,” <a href=”http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/18/arctic-sea-ice-levels_n_1605441.html&#8221; target=”_hplink”>reported LiveScience</a>. As sea ice declines in the Arctic, countries are anticipating a <a href=”http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/16/arctic-climate-change-military-activity_n_1427565.html&#8221; target=”_hplink”>competition for control of shipping lanes and mineral extraction</a> in the region. In Antarctica, research from the United States’ Palmer Station on the Antarctic Peninsula has found that “87 percent of the peninsula’s land-bound glaciers are in retreat,” <a href=”http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/12/environmental-threats-antarctica_n_1669023.html&#8221; target=”_hplink”>reported OurAmazingPlanet</a>. Decreasing sea ice levels were also addressed in <a href=”http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/18/shell-arctic-ready-hoax-greenpeace_n_1684222.html&#8221; target=”_hplink”>a recent spoof of Shell’s plans to drill for oil in the Arctic this summer</a>.

  • Crazy Sugar Highs

    Climate change has already impacted sugarcane production in Indonesia. In late 2011, the <a href=”http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2011/11/09/sugar-association-blames-climate-change-production-drop.html http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2011/11/09/sugar-association-blames-climate-change-production-drop.html&#8221; target=”_hplink”>chairman of the Indonesian Sugarcane Farmers Association said</a>, “sugarcane production decreased by up to 30 percent in 2011 due to climate change that has occurred since 2009.”

  • Warning Joe: Coffee Extinct in The Future?

    Climate changes and insect invasions threaten the future supply of morning joe.

ClubOrlov: From the Mouths of Babes

ClubOrlov: From the Mouths of Babes. (source)

From the Mouths of Babes

Gottfried Helnwein

[This week’s guest post is by Scott Erickson, who is an award-winning humor writer and the author of a satirical novel titled The Diary of Amy, the 14-Year-Old Girl Who Saved the EarthI liked it. It is entirely disarming and strikes a good balance between humor and seriousness. There are enough jeremiads and diatribes and rants on this topic out there. Luckily, this isn’t one of them because Scott’s scathing social critique and mordant wit are delivered via a charming narrative device: a smart, earnest, precocious 14-year-old girl.]

A 14-YEAR-OLD GIRL EXPLAINS HOW WE CAN STOP THE ADDICTION TO ECONOMIC GROWTH THAT’S DESTROYING THE EARTH

Hi! I’m Amy Johnson-Martinez, the 14-year-old girl who’s saving the earth from environmental destruction. A lot of people don’t understand how the destruction of the earth is connected to our addiction to economic growth. Actually, a lot of people don’t even realize that we’re addicted!

Personally speaking, I think it’s kind of weird that economists don’t tell us about this. So I guess it takes a 14-year-old girl to tell you about it!

Economists always say, “The economy has to keep growing or else it will collapse.” But it can’t grow forever, because the earth is running out of resources. Actually, it’s already starting to happen. That’s a big reason why the economy is getting worse.

Our economy is giving us a totally stupid choice: Save the economy or save the earth. It won’t let us save both! I personally think that’s pretty crazy!

On my journey to save the earth from environmental destruction, I figured out pretty quickly that the main problem is the economy. Pretty much every time there’s an idea that would make things less destructive and more sustainable, the argument against it is always: “It will be bad for economic growth.”

That’s when I found out the economy has to grow or else it collapses. But when I asked why, nobody knew the answer. So I had to figure it out myself.

I looked at a bunch of economic books, but none of them said anything about why we’re addicted to economic growth. I couldn’t even find out how the economy could grow. That’s another basic question: How can money grow?

Isn’t that an interesting question?

This led to another question, “How is money introduced into the economy?”

The answer wasn’t easy to find. At first I thought the answer was that the government prints it, but that was back when I was young and naive. It turns out that the government prints only a tiny percentage of the money in circulation, and the rest is just promises, based on future growth (which is kind of weird if you think about it.)

Then I found out about “quantitative easing,” which sounds intellectually sophisticated. But it’s not the “real” answer, because quantitative easing only creates more promises. And the only way to live up to these promises is by overall growth of the economy. So we’re back to where we started: How does the economy grow?

Since I couldn’t find any answers in books about contemporary economics, I tried looking at books about the history of economics. I focused a lot on John Maynard Keynes, who was from England and invented the basic economic ideas we still use.

I found something interesting that he wrote in 1933. It’s the first thing I found that talks about economic growth. Basically, he thinks it’s important to have the economy grow, but when everybody is doing OK then growth should stop:

Suppose that a hundred years hence we are eight times better off than today. The economic problem may be solved.

The economic problem, the struggle for subsistence, always has been the primary, most pressing problem of the human race. Thus for the first time since his creation man will be faced with his real, his permanent problem – how to use his freedom from pressing economic cares, how to live wisely and agreeably and well.

When the accumulation of wealth is no longer of high social importance, there will be great changes in the code of morals. The love of money will be recognized for what it is, a somewhat disgusting morbidity, one of those semi-criminal, semi-pathological propensities which one hands over with a shudder to the specialists in mental disease.

I see us free, therefore, to return to some of the most sure and certain principles of religion and traditional virtue – that avarice is a vice, that the exaction of usury is a misdemeanor, and the love of money is detestable.

But the prediction that economic growth would end poverty hasn’t happened. In fact, even with all the economic growth that’s happened since then, poverty is getting worse. Obviously, the idea that economic growth will end poverty isn’t right.

I had to look up what the word “avarice” means, and basically it means “greed.” I also had to look up what “usury” means. It means to charge interest on loaning money. It’s a religious word and at one time all religions were against it as unethical.

Even though the quote was interesting, it didn’t answer the question about how money can grow. So I had to go back even farther. The ideas of John Maynard Keynes were influenced by another guy – John Law.

What a weird person! According to one book, in addition to being a banker and an economist he was “a gambler, swindler, rake and adventurer forced to flee the British Isles after killing an opponent in a duel.” This kind of person helped invent our economic system?

I found something in a book about John Law that seemed important: “Law made clear the distinction between a passive treasury, where money just accumulated, and an active bank, where money was created.”

Banks create money? That was news to me! I thought they just kept money and loaned some of it out.

The answer has to do with the “fractional reserve system” which started in the 1700s. It used to be that money was sort of a “receipt” for gold. The receipt was called a “banknote,” which was printed by the bank. But then some bankers figured out they could print more “receipts” than the gold they had, therefore they only had a “fraction” of the gold compared to the “receipts” (actual money).

That explains how it came to be that banks could create money, but it didn’t explain how money could “grow” – since banks were only allowed to print a certain percentage extra.

Then, some bankers figured out a way to become even more wealthy with this “extra money” they could print themselves. What they did is to give out the money in the form of a loan. Since they charged interest on the loan, they would get back more than they gave out. This next part is where the addiction starts.

Let’s say you get a loan for $100, but because of the interest you pay back $110. Here’s an interesting question: Where did that extra $10 come from?

It didn’t come from you, since you can’t create money. Only banks can – by making loans. So the extra money could only come from one place: More loans! If you trace money to where money comes from, it almost always comes from a loan.

People can get personal loans, but what’s more important for the economy is business loans – loans to start or expand a business. Of course all the loans have interest, which means paying back more money. But we’ve already figured out that money is “created” by banks issuing loans. So to pay off past loans, somewhere else in the economy there has to be new loans which create more money. But then THOSE loans have to be paid off with money, which means MORE loans.

It always comes back to the banks making more loans to pay off the existing loans. This has been going on for hundreds of years, which is how the economy “grows.”

Economic growth needs more money, but more money needs more economic growth, which needs more money. And it doesn’t stop. It can’t stop.

That’s not only how the economy grows, but why it HAS to grow. We can never get to a point where growth is “enough.”

This is why we’re addicted to economic growth. We’re not creating money; we’re creating debt!Like with any addiction, we keep doing it even when it’s not working any more. This is why even when it’s obvious that economic growth isn’t solving unemployment or ending poverty or doing any of the other stuff it says it can do, we keep trying it anyway. It’s why even though we have more money than ever before in history, we still need more.

The funny thing is that the solution is super-easy. All we have to do is stop the banks from creating money as debt.

You know what’s really interesting? I discovered that our greatest president Abraham Lincoln figured this out and tried to stop it. Lincoln tried to fix the problem by having the government print a kind of money called “greenbacks”—$450 million of interest-free money. But the banks did NOT like this because they wanted to create all the money themselves! So they bought up all the “greenbacks” and forced the government to buy them back in exchange for gold.

Lincoln had the right idea, but he didn’t go far enough. We have to eliminate interest on ALL money. The answer is actually super-easy.

To end the addiction to economic growth and save the earth, this is what we need to do: End the creation of money as interest-bearing loans. Put an end to fractional reserve banking and make it so banks can’t create money. Then give the U.S. Treasury the exclusive right to issue U.S. currency free of debt.

Of course, the big banks won’t like this, because they make money from keeping us addicted. But as I learned in school, we live in a democracy which means companies aren’t the boss of us; we’re the boss of them. Yay for democracy!

Let’s stop the addiction before the economy collapses and destroys the earth, which is very beautiful. In fact, it’s my favorite planet!

 

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: