Olduvaiblog: Musings on the coming collapse

Home » Posts tagged 'Extinction'

Tag Archives: Extinction

A Gift From The Collapseniks  |  Peak Oil News and Message Boards

A Gift From The Collapseniks  |  Peak Oil News and Message Boards.

Of what possible use is it to imagine the end of civilization or even of the species? Is it simply a pessimistic indulgence or can it contribute to progressive and other positive results?

When I was a child, my family’s pastor used to elbow into almost every sermon an admiring reference to “St. John languishing in exile on the rock-bound, sea-girt island of Patmos.” He was referring to the author of  the grisly Book of Revelation , the dominant Western source of apocalyptic imagery.

We chuckle at cartoons of robed men on city sidewalks carrying placards that claim, “the end is nigh,” and at bumper stickers that declare, “in case of Rapture, this car will be driverless” (which sounds more dangerous than driving under the influence). Since St. John’s fiery prose, there have been many predictions of the end, including the modern cult studied by social psychologist Leon Festinger in When Prophecy Fails (1956).

Those who see danger tend to accuse others of “denial,” of “refusing to listen.” Perhaps a tincture of denial has given humans an evolutionary advantage. Speaking positively, psychologists refer to “optimism bias.” Most of us tend to imagine that things will turn out better than they do, a common mental pattern studied by such authors as Tali Sharot. While this trait arguably encourages enterprises, some of which succeed, it may also, on occasion, blind us to the possibility of avoidable loss, even terminal loss.

In A Year to Live (1997), Stephen Levine asks readers to pretend they have the awful privilege of knowing when they will die (in 52 weeks) and challenges them to review their histories honestly and to live abundantly in the remaining time. As my wife and I know, from working through Levine’s book with another couple, the result can be an enhancement of life.

During the Cold War, Joanna Macy gave us Despair and Personal Power in the Nuclear Age (1983). Before writing on ecology, on general systems theory, and on hope, Macy taught that a fuller life, including activism, could be approached through uninhibited expression of the deep feelings that led us to be concerned. More recent examples are the grief work of Carolyn Baker, author of Sacred Demise (2009) and Collapsing Consciously (2013) and of Francis Weller, author of Entering the Healing Ground (2012).

Still, it’s going against the grain to ask people to imagine extreme loss. Unlike some so-called primitive groups, our society is not set up for it, apart from isolated workshops. According to both Baker and Weller, working through grief requires the support of a community and the additional safety of a ritual container. For all its virtues, U.S. culture is based more on individuality, the frontier, and risky enterprise, than on mutual support and safe space.

Nonetheless, a growing number of observers of climate change and other trends foresee disaster. We can describe them as collapseniks, a term with a suffix derived from Russian in honor of Dmitri Orlo*, who grew up in St. Petersburg (then Leningrad) and emigrated to the U.S. An engineer, sailor, and writer, Orlov believes that his adopted country will descend into collapse, and that the U.S. is less well prepared than the country where he was raised. If we define collapsenik as an observer who is conscious of the possibility of economic, political, and social collapse and who believes collapse is worth taking seriously, then Orlov has a parade of company, of which I will give chronological highlights at the end of this piece.

There are big differences among collapsenik authors and even in a single author at different times. A spectrum exists, from those who feel we could avoid the worst of climate change by changing our ways substantially (“we’re sleepwalking toward disaster but could conceivably wake up”) to those who believe our species is doomed (“it’s already too late”). For example, scientist Guy McPherson has come to believe that, as a species, we are headed toward “near-term extinction” (niftily abbreviated as NTE).

While pessimists predict NTE, optimists envision the triumph of a progressive politics that would render climate change survivable, perhaps shifting us toward a steady-state economy, slowing the sixth extinction of species, and fostering a network of local and democratic institutions. An optimistic scenario would resonate with what Macy, expressing hope, now calls “The Great Turning.”

In contrast, McPherson argues that it’s already too late for ad equate reform: humans have inadvertently created feedback loops that will keep making the situation worse. For example, the release of methane, caused (in part) by warming of the shallow Arctic ocean and the Siberian and Canadian tundra, will cause more warming because methane is a greenhouse gas even more dangerous than CO2. And so on.

Humans don’t have a very good record of predicting the future, in spite of various divinatory schemes. Whether developments are technological, political, or economic, we have proceeded without reliable forecasts. Given the surprises inherent in complex systems and in technical development, nobody can show that we face certain demise, though we can discuss probabilities.

Could we learn to regard collapse not as a firm prediction but as a scenario worth exploring? After all, the Pentagon has contingency plans for events that are arguably less likely and less devastating.

To return to our original question, what could be the use of taking seriously a scenario of collapse, especially the views that argue that it’s already too late or that changes could help, but probably won’t be made? If we feel grief at what seems to be happening, instead of simply seeming smug in a prediction of certain doom, if we invent ways to lessen the turbulence and create the best that is possible in the new circumstances, if we live intensely instead of habitually, then the scenario of demise might seem no worse than knowing that, as individuals, we each will die. Meanwhile, what are we capable of?

According to Rebecca Solnit’s A Paradise Built in Hell (2010), disasters can bring out the best in people. If the scenario of the collapseniks plays out, we will have opportunities to discover what kind of gardens we can create in the ruins of our present society. So what is the gift? That by responding fully to the scenario, we can meanwhile live more intensely and develop the elements of a society that, under new conditions as they develop, would work.

Now here are the promised examples of recent writers who are aware of the possibility of collapse and who, in various cases, are sketching alternatives. In this century, we’ve been given Tim Flahherty’s The Weather Makers (2001), Richard Heinberg’s The Party’s Over (2003), Jared Diamond’s Collapse (2005), James Howard Kunstler’s The Long Emergency (2005), Clive Hamilton’s A Short History of Progress (2005), Elizabeth Kolbert’s Field Notes from a Catastrophe (2006), George Monbiot’s Heat (2006), another assessment report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2007), James Lovelock’s The Revenge of Gaia (2007), John Michael Greer’s The Long Descent (2008).

And in the past five years: Sharon Astyk and Aaron Newton’s A Nation of Farmers (2009), Hamilton’s Requiem for a Species (2010), Chris Martenson’sThe Crash Course (2011), Guy McPherson’s Walking Away from Empire (2011), Dmitri Orlov’s Reinventing Collapse (2011), Paul Gilding’s The Great Disruption (2012), an even more dire IPCC assessment report (2014), Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction (2014), and the National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society, Climate Change: Evidence and Causes (also this year). (With a few exceptions, I have listed only the first book in which each author shows a pervasive awareness of collapse.)

In addition, apart from the writers already listed, many of whom write blogs, you can find many provocative personal and organizational websites, some of which publish several writers, such as Arctic News (Sam Carara), Climate Progress (Joe Romm), Collapse of Industrial Civilization (xraymike 79),   Collapsing into Consciousness (Gary Stamper), Culture Change (Jan Lundberg), Dark Mountain Project (Paul Kingsnorth), Grist, How to Save the World (Dave Pollard), Our Finite World (Gail Tverberg), Radio Ecoshock (hosted by Alex Smith), Speaking Truth to Power (articles gathered daily by Carolyn Baker), and Yale Environment 360 (edited by Roger Cohn Sr.).

We should of course judge not by the number of collapseniks, but by the quality of evidence these writers bring. It’s a conversation worth having.

Op-Ed News

A Gift From The Collapseniks  |  Peak Oil News and Message Boards

A Gift From The Collapseniks  |  Peak Oil News and Message Boards.

Of what possible use is it to imagine the end of civilization or even of the species? Is it simply a pessimistic indulgence or can it contribute to progressive and other positive results?

When I was a child, my family’s pastor used to elbow into almost every sermon an admiring reference to “St. John languishing in exile on the rock-bound, sea-girt island of Patmos.” He was referring to the author of  the grisly Book of Revelation , the dominant Western source of apocalyptic imagery.

We chuckle at cartoons of robed men on city sidewalks carrying placards that claim, “the end is nigh,” and at bumper stickers that declare, “in case of Rapture, this car will be driverless” (which sounds more dangerous than driving under the influence). Since St. John’s fiery prose, there have been many predictions of the end, including the modern cult studied by social psychologist Leon Festinger in When Prophecy Fails (1956).

Those who see danger tend to accuse others of “denial,” of “refusing to listen.” Perhaps a tincture of denial has given humans an evolutionary advantage. Speaking positively, psychologists refer to “optimism bias.” Most of us tend to imagine that things will turn out better than they do, a common mental pattern studied by such authors as Tali Sharot. While this trait arguably encourages enterprises, some of which succeed, it may also, on occasion, blind us to the possibility of avoidable loss, even terminal loss.

In A Year to Live (1997), Stephen Levine asks readers to pretend they have the awful privilege of knowing when they will die (in 52 weeks) and challenges them to review their histories honestly and to live abundantly in the remaining time. As my wife and I know, from working through Levine’s book with another couple, the result can be an enhancement of life.

During the Cold War, Joanna Macy gave us Despair and Personal Power in the Nuclear Age (1983). Before writing on ecology, on general systems theory, and on hope, Macy taught that a fuller life, including activism, could be approached through uninhibited expression of the deep feelings that led us to be concerned. More recent examples are the grief work of Carolyn Baker, author of Sacred Demise (2009) and Collapsing Consciously (2013) and of Francis Weller, author of Entering the Healing Ground (2012).

Still, it’s going against the grain to ask people to imagine extreme loss. Unlike some so-called primitive groups, our society is not set up for it, apart from isolated workshops. According to both Baker and Weller, working through grief requires the support of a community and the additional safety of a ritual container. For all its virtues, U.S. culture is based more on individuality, the frontier, and risky enterprise, than on mutual support and safe space.

Nonetheless, a growing number of observers of climate change and other trends foresee disaster. We can describe them as collapseniks, a term with a suffix derived from Russian in honor of Dmitri Orlo*, who grew up in St. Petersburg (then Leningrad) and emigrated to the U.S. An engineer, sailor, and writer, Orlov believes that his adopted country will descend into collapse, and that the U.S. is less well prepared than the country where he was raised. If we define collapsenik as an observer who is conscious of the possibility of economic, political, and social collapse and who believes collapse is worth taking seriously, then Orlov has a parade of company, of which I will give chronological highlights at the end of this piece.

There are big differences among collapsenik authors and even in a single author at different times. A spectrum exists, from those who feel we could avoid the worst of climate change by changing our ways substantially (“we’re sleepwalking toward disaster but could conceivably wake up”) to those who believe our species is doomed (“it’s already too late”). For example, scientist Guy McPherson has come to believe that, as a species, we are headed toward “near-term extinction” (niftily abbreviated as NTE).

While pessimists predict NTE, optimists envision the triumph of a progressive politics that would render climate change survivable, perhaps shifting us toward a steady-state economy, slowing the sixth extinction of species, and fostering a network of local and democratic institutions. An optimistic scenario would resonate with what Macy, expressing hope, now calls “The Great Turning.”

In contrast, McPherson argues that it’s already too late for ad equate reform: humans have inadvertently created feedback loops that will keep making the situation worse. For example, the release of methane, caused (in part) by warming of the shallow Arctic ocean and the Siberian and Canadian tundra, will cause more warming because methane is a greenhouse gas even more dangerous than CO2. And so on.

Humans don’t have a very good record of predicting the future, in spite of various divinatory schemes. Whether developments are technological, political, or economic, we have proceeded without reliable forecasts. Given the surprises inherent in complex systems and in technical development, nobody can show that we face certain demise, though we can discuss probabilities.

Could we learn to regard collapse not as a firm prediction but as a scenario worth exploring? After all, the Pentagon has contingency plans for events that are arguably less likely and less devastating.

To return to our original question, what could be the use of taking seriously a scenario of collapse, especially the views that argue that it’s already too late or that changes could help, but probably won’t be made? If we feel grief at what seems to be happening, instead of simply seeming smug in a prediction of certain doom, if we invent ways to lessen the turbulence and create the best that is possible in the new circumstances, if we live intensely instead of habitually, then the scenario of demise might seem no worse than knowing that, as individuals, we each will die. Meanwhile, what are we capable of?

According to Rebecca Solnit’s A Paradise Built in Hell (2010), disasters can bring out the best in people. If the scenario of the collapseniks plays out, we will have opportunities to discover what kind of gardens we can create in the ruins of our present society. So what is the gift? That by responding fully to the scenario, we can meanwhile live more intensely and develop the elements of a society that, under new conditions as they develop, would work.

Now here are the promised examples of recent writers who are aware of the possibility of collapse and who, in various cases, are sketching alternatives. In this century, we’ve been given Tim Flahherty’s The Weather Makers (2001), Richard Heinberg’s The Party’s Over (2003), Jared Diamond’s Collapse (2005), James Howard Kunstler’s The Long Emergency (2005), Clive Hamilton’s A Short History of Progress (2005), Elizabeth Kolbert’s Field Notes from a Catastrophe (2006), George Monbiot’s Heat (2006), another assessment report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2007), James Lovelock’s The Revenge of Gaia (2007), John Michael Greer’s The Long Descent (2008).

And in the past five years: Sharon Astyk and Aaron Newton’s A Nation of Farmers (2009), Hamilton’s Requiem for a Species (2010), Chris Martenson’sThe Crash Course (2011), Guy McPherson’s Walking Away from Empire (2011), Dmitri Orlov’s Reinventing Collapse (2011), Paul Gilding’s The Great Disruption (2012), an even more dire IPCC assessment report (2014), Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction (2014), and the National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society, Climate Change: Evidence and Causes (also this year). (With a few exceptions, I have listed only the first book in which each author shows a pervasive awareness of collapse.)

In addition, apart from the writers already listed, many of whom write blogs, you can find many provocative personal and organizational websites, some of which publish several writers, such as Arctic News (Sam Carara), Climate Progress (Joe Romm), Collapse of Industrial Civilization (xraymike 79),   Collapsing into Consciousness (Gary Stamper), Culture Change (Jan Lundberg), Dark Mountain Project (Paul Kingsnorth), Grist, How to Save the World (Dave Pollard), Our Finite World (Gail Tverberg), Radio Ecoshock (hosted by Alex Smith), Speaking Truth to Power (articles gathered daily by Carolyn Baker), and Yale Environment 360 (edited by Roger Cohn Sr.).

We should of course judge not by the number of collapseniks, but by the quality of evidence these writers bring. It’s a conversation worth having.

Op-Ed News

Lawsuit filed against Canadian government over endangered wildlife and Northern Gateway : thegreenpages.ca

Lawsuit filed against Canadian government over endangered wildlife and Northern Gateway : thegreenpages.ca.

Vancouver — Environmental groups are taking the federal government to court over its continued failure to meet its legal responsibilities under the Species at Risk Act. 

Ecojustice lawyers are acting on behalf of five environmental groups in this lawsuit — the David Suzuki Foundation,Greenpeace CanadaSierra Club BC,Wilderness Committee and Wildsight.

The groups argue that a number of industrial projects, including the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline and tanker route, are putting threatened and endangered wildlife at risk. The case will be heard by the Federal Court in Vancouver January 8 and 9.

“The federal government’s chronic delays in producing recovery strategies for Canada’s endangered wildlife are forcing species already struggling to survive to wait even longer for the protection they desperately need,” said Devon Page, Ecojustice executive director. “Worse, not having these recovery strategies in place makes it impossible for regulators to consider the full environmental impact of major projects like the Northern Gateway pipeline.”

The lawsuit challenges the federal government’s multi-year delays in producing recovery strategies for four species: the Pacific Humpback Whale, Nechako White Sturgeon, Marbled Murrelet and Southern Mountain Caribou. The habitat for all four species would be impacted by the construction and operation of the Northern Gateway pipeline, among other proposed developments.

By delaying the recovery strategies, and therefore delaying identification of the critical habitat it must then protect, the federal government is making it easier for projects like Northern Gateway pipeline to speed through regulatory review without a full understanding of their long-term impacts on these wildlife species and their habitat.

The government delayed its final recovery strategy for the Pacific Humpback Whale until this past October, more than four and a half years past its due date, and far too late to be considered by the Joint Review Panel (JRP), which recommended in December that Cabinet approve Northern Gateway.

That recovery strategy identifies toxic spills and vessel traffic as two threats to the humpbacks’ survival and recovery. The recovery strategy also shows how the whales’ critical habitat overlaps significantly with the proposed tanker route for the Northern Gateway pipeline — all pertinent information that should have been considered during the review hearings.

“This recovery strategy clearly demonstrates that Northern Gateway would have a significant impact on humpback whales and their habitat, yet by the time this science was released it was too late for it to be considered by the JRP, which calls into question the credibility of the review process,” said Caitlyn Vernon, campaigns director with Sierra Club BC.

More than 160 other at-risk species — including the Southern Mountain Caribou, another species that will be impacted by Northern Gateway — still await the release of their recovery strategies.

My Home is a Dystopia | Collapse of Industrial Civilization

My Home is a Dystopia | Collapse of Industrial Civilization.

BeFunky_null_9

Snap 2013-12-05 at 00.31.23

As media spin and political rhetoric of the corporatocracy diverge further and further from reality, modern society appears more and more to have been lifted from the pages of dystopian fiction. While the majority of the population succumbs to a serial-bubble economy, a disintegrating social safety net, and extreme weather, The elite are wasting scarce resources in an effort to hold together the cracking and buckling foundation of our sprawling industrial civilization. It’s in the short-term interest of the elite to construct a police state that will protect the gamed system they have created for themselves even though we know such short-sightedness sets us all up for a more spectacular fall. Capitalism has enslaved the world to the lifelong pursuit of little bits of paper and metal in order to buy the mass-produced products and food that have become essential to the survival of billions of people. Money and the illusion of material wealth are now perceived as more important than preserving the habitability of the planet. We live in a pathological dystopia of money worship.

Oil

Punch-drunk on fossil fuels, humans have been more destructive than a bull in a china shop; the true cost of fossil fuels continues to be externalized and downplayed as ever-more ecological debt racks up, revealing itself in anincreasingly destabilized biosphere and collapsing web of life. Sadly, the ‘climate emergency‘ has become yet another excuse for the elite to accelerate their looting by treating CO2 emissions as one more capitalist market tool — tax/trading policies as well as the costly and impractical capture and storage of carbon. In the end, any such market schemes will fail due primarily to the harsh consequences of human ecological overshoot and the complexity trap modern civilization has created for itself.

“…Societies struggling with the dilemmas of complexity are vulnerable from two directions. First, systems that are too tightly coupled or too efficient are fragile; they lack resilience. Thus they risk being toppled by a cascade of failure. That is how region-wide electrical outages propagate. The failure of one sector brings down another and another until the grid itself fails, and once down it takes a heroic effort to get it up and running again.

Second, they are exposed to simultaneous failure. When formerly separate problems coalesce into a problematique, a nexus of interlocking problems, the society does not face one or two discrete challenges, as in simpler times, but instead a swarm of simultaneous challenges that can overwhelm its capacity to respond, thereby provoking a general collapse.

Take climate change as a current example. To address this overall problem will require us to surmount a host of challenges in many different sectors (e.g., agriculture, forestry, public health, energy production, infrastructure and so on) not only in one country or economy but in every country—to varying degrees…”

BeFunky_Tintype_3

In the geological blink of an eye — 20, 40, 60, or 80 years from now, ghostly ruins will be all that remains of the most technologically advanced civilization that once spanned the globe. I don’t believe there will appear any sort of Hail Mary invention to solve the gauntlet of problems facing mankind — peak fossil fuels, climate change, ocean acidification, keystone species extinction, water scarcity, peak antibiotics, chemical pollution, nuclear proliferation, overpopulation, capitalism, and the complexity trap. Just a few weeks ago, a drill was conducted between Canada, the U.S., and Mexico in order to simulate a large-scale electric grid failure:

“…The vulnerability of our power grid due to solar flares or electromagnetic pulse (EMP) is getting new attention. Our system of interconnected power generation, transmission facilities, and distribution facilities are more vulnerable to cyber attacks than ever before. It would cost $3.6 trillion to fix everything, and would not be completed until 2020.

Smart grid systems make the power grid more accessible to cyber hackers so the upgrade can increase the risk. Electric car charging stations are essentially an accessible computer that cyber hackers can access the power grid. Right now, America has relatively few electric car charging stations, but we will be seeing a significant increase in government and privately funded vehicle charging station projects…

It is estimated that a long-term failure of the power grid would likely be so catastrophic to society that casualties would be in excess of 60% of the population, according to the Chairman of the EMP Commission. With the grid vulnerable to solar flares, cyber attacks, EMP’s and weather related events it is important that we have supplies in stock to reduce the waiting time for overseas shipments and manufacturing delays. Currently we lack the inventory.

When, not if, the power grid fails, not only will the citizens of the U.S.A. be at risk of interrupted supplies of water, fresh food, fuel and the shut down of communications, but our very own military will suffer the same affects. Civil unrest would inevitably overwhelm the police department’s ability to respond…”

Back in August of this year, Outgoing DHS Director, Janet Napolitano said the following:

“A massive and “serious” cyber attack on the U.S. homeland is coming, and a natural disaster, the likes of which the nation has never seen is also likely and on its way.”

BeFunky_img148710h

Of course the extreme weather events of climate change are also a factor in the fragility of the power grid. And ironically, converting to ‘green energy’ to supply power to the grid could compound the problem:

…”Energy officials worry a lot these days about the stability of the massive patchwork of wires, substations and algorithms that keeps electricity flowing. They rattle off several scenarios that could lead to a collapse of the power grid — a well-executed cyberattack, a freak storm, sabotage.

But as states, led by California, race to bring more wind, solar and geothermal power online, those and other forms of alternative energy have become a new source of anxiety. The problem is that renewable energy adds unprecedented levels of stress to a grid designed for the previous century.

Green energy is the least predictable kind. Nobody can say for certain when the wind will blow or the sun will shine. A field of solar panels might be cranking out huge amounts of energy one minute and a tiny amount the next if a thick cloud arrives. In many cases, renewable resources exist where transmission lines don’t.

“The grid was not built for renewables,” said Trieu Mai, senior analyst at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

The frailty imperils lofty goals for greenhouse gas reductions.Concerned state and federal officials are spending billions of dollars in ratepayer and taxpayer money in an effort to hasten the technological breakthroughs needed for the grid to keep up with the demands of clean energy”…

The electric grid truly is the Achilles heel of industrial civilization:

…”Outside of the electricity industry, few fully understand the centrality of the grid to life in America today. The most graphic realizations occur when the grid goes down. It’s not just a matter of light and comfort in our homes. Without electricity, citizens may have no access to potable water, sewage treatment, safe food, fuel supplies, traffic control, or health care…

…Not only is the electrical grid central to modern life, but the grid also has multiple vulnerabilities that make keeping it safe a very difficult task. Weather outages are common, although some, such as an ice storm, can do enormous damage. A January 1998 ice storm destroyed much of Hydro-Québec’s massive 765-kV transmission system, blacking out more than 3 million Canadians, causing 30 fatalities, and leaving many customers in the dark for weeks. Tropical storms, such as 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, can also cause long-term and widespread destruction.

Human error can also take down the grid in a hurry, as was the case with the massive August 2003 blackout that turned off power for 55 million people in the Northeast, Midwest, and Canada…

…The 2003 blackout also highlighted another chilling aspect of grid failure: the propensity of the system to suffer from a cascading failure. Because of the grid’s interconnectedness, grid failures can spread quickly, concatenating across the system. This same effect occurred during the 1965 blackout that slammed most of the eastern U.S., an event that began with a simple hardware failure in Canada.”…

And lastly, without electricity for an extended period, we would have hundreds of Fukushima nuclear disasters unfolding all over the planet:

…”Unfortunately, the world’s nuclear power plants, as they are currently designed, are critically dependent upon maintaining connection to a functioning electrical grid, for all but relatively short periods of electrical blackouts, in order to keep their reactor cores continuously cooled so as to avoid catastrophic reactor core meltdowns and fires in storage ponds for spent fuel rods….

What do extended grid blackouts have to do with potential nuclear catastrophes? Nuclear power plants are designed to disconnect automatically from the grid in the event of a local power failure or major grid anomaly; once disconnected, they begin the process of shutting down the reactor’s core. In the event of the loss of coolant flow to an active nuclear reactor’s core, the reactor will start to melt down and fail catastrophically within a matter of a few hours, at most. In an extreme GMD [geomagnetic disturbance], nearly every reactor in the world could be affected…

If an extreme GMD were to cause widespread grid collapse (which it most certainly will), in as little as one or two hours after each nuclear reactor facility’s backup generators either fail to start, or run out of fuel, the reactor cores will start to melt down. After a few days without electricity to run the cooling system pumps, the water bath covering the spent fuel rods stored in “spent-fuel ponds” will boil away, allowing the stored fuel rods to melt down and burn [2]. Since the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) currently mandates that only one week’s supply of backup generator fuel needs to be stored at each reactor site, it is likely that, after we witness the spectacular nighttime celestial light show from the next extreme GMD, we will have about one week in which to prepare ourselves for Armageddon.”…

The Energy Skeptic reports that Russia is on a crusade to spread these ticking time bombs all around the world.

3959191779_a0764c7d92_o

 

Nine Inch Nails – Leaving Hope (HD)

Nine Inch Nails – Leaving Hope (HD)

 

“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_

Louise Leakey: WATCH: Is The Human Race In Danger Of Becoming Extinct Soon?

Louise Leakey: WATCH: Is The Human Race In Danger Of Becoming Extinct Soon?.

%d bloggers like this: