"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Posts Tagged ‘Capitalist Ecological Violence’

Say So Long To Soil: The ‘Unfolding Global Disaster’ Happening Right Under Our Feet

In Uncategorized on January 8, 2016 at 8:01 pm

Oldspeak: Old story. We’re running out of soil. Only it’s getting worse. It took us about a century and a half to destroy half of Earth’s topsoil, and in the last 40 years, we’ve exterminated another third of it.”This is catastrophic when you think that it takes about 500 years to form 2.5 cm of topsoil under normal agricultural conditions.” -Duncan Cameron.  Meanwhile, ecocidal Concentrated Animal Farming Operations (CAFOs) and large-scale industrial agricultural operations continue to gobble up land worldwide, destroying forests, poisoning water sources and eradicating habitats for untold flora and fauna at an ever-increasing pace. When you consider that we probably don’t have 500 years to replenish the lost soil, nor seemingly the inclination, this is not good. Especially given the fact that soil is a major carbon sink. Happy New Year Kids! -OSJ

Written By Natasha Gelling @ Think Progress:

With all that’s going on in the world — from record-breaking warm spells to rapidly melting ice sheets — it’s easy to ignore something so seemingly mundane as dirt. But scientists at the University of Sheffield’s Grantham Center for Sustainable Futures suggest that we ignore dirt at our own peril.

Nearly a third of the world’s arable land has been lost over the past four decades, according to a new report, released to coincide with the Paris climate talks earlier this month. Experts at the the University of Sheffield called this soil loss “an unfolding global disaster” that directly threatens the agricultural productivity of the planet.

But soil erosion isn’t just a problem for food security — which is expected to become even more pressing as the world’s population booms and land available for food production wanes. Soil erosion is also tied to the climate, as the world’s soils represent a massive carbon storage system, containing three times the amount of carbon that is currently in the atmosphere.

“If the soil carbon reserve is not managed properly, it can easily overwhelm the atmosphere,” Rattan Lal, director of the Carbon Management and Sequestration Center at Ohio State University, told ThinkProgress in April.

The University of Sheffield report places most of the blame for soil erosion on what it calls unsustainable farming practices, which require large amounts of fertilizers and tilling to boost crop yields. Switching to a more sustainable model of intensive agriculture, the report urges, can help offset soil loss.

Right now, the report found that plowed fields lose soil to erosion at a rate 10 to 100 times greater than soil formation, meaning that the Earth is currently losing valuable land faster than it can be naturally replenished. Replenishing topsoil naturally is not a quick process — it takes about 500 years to replenish just 2.5 cm of topsoil. According to the World Wildlife Fund, about half of the world’s topsoil has been lost in the last century and a half.

“Soil is lost rapidly but replaced over millennia, and this represents one of the greatest global threats to agriculture,” University of Sheffield biology professor Duncan Cameron, co-author of the report, said in a press statement. “This is catastrophic when you think that it takes about 500 years to form 2.5 cm of topsoil under normal agricultural conditions.”

Over-plowing fields constantly disturbs top soil, exposing the microbes that live within it to oxygen and releasing its stored carbon. That, in turn, impacts soil’s ability to store more carbon. It also degrades the soil’s structural integrity, impeding its ability to absorb water and act as a buffer against floods, or store water for plants. Degraded soil can wash away more easily during extreme precipitation events, causing rivers and streams to become flooded with silt and sediment, which can impact ecosystems in the water.

Degraded soil is also less fertile than non-degraded soil in terms of agricultural productivity — a worrisome reality for a planet that is expected to need to increase its agricultural production 50 percent by 2050. According to the United Nations, 95 percent of our food comes from the soil, but about one-third of the world’s soils are currently degraded. For sub-Saharan Africa, that number jumps to about two-thirds, which the Montpellier Panel — an international group working to support national and regional agricultural development and food security priorities in sub-Saharan Africa — estimates costs the region about $68 billion per year in lost productivity. If topsoil loss is not slowed or reversed, the U.N. estimates that all of the world’s topsoil could be gone within 60 years.

In order to slow or reverse the trend of soil degradation, the University of Sheffield report suggests a few tweaks to the currently agricultural model. First, they suggest a more hands-on approach to soil management with cover crops and no-till soil, both of which can help boost soil health by keeping soil microbes from being exposed to oxygen and preserving a system of roots that keeps soil more tightly packed. The report also suggests weaning the world off of synthetic fertilizers and returning to the age-old but currently-underused tradition of applying night soil — also known as human sewage — to cropland, which the report argues can help restore nitrogen and phosphorus back to the soil.

As part of the U.N. climate talks, the French government launched a program aimed at studying the best methods for restoring soil health and aiding carbon sequestration. Dubbed “4 pour 1,000,” as a nod to the idea that a .4 percent increase in soil carbon annually would offset human emissions, the program is a partnership between the French government, agricultural development bodies like CGIAR, and several developing nations. The project hopes to sequester 25 megatons of carbon while boosting farming yields by 20 percent.

“The good thing is that no one disagrees that increasing soil carbon is good for agriculture, is good for the environment, good for food security,” CGIAR CEO Frank Rijsberman told ThinkProgress during the Paris conference. “If we can do it in a stable way, it captures carbon and reduces emissions. It can be a double or triple win.”


China Is Turning Its Irreplaceable Fish Breeding Grounds Into Smartphone Factories

In Uncategorized on October 30, 2015 at 1:49 pm

A wetland in China Zhao jian kang/Shutterstock

Oldspeak: “We have divorced ourselves in our imagination from the real world of common experience and enclosed ourselves in a cloud of personal desires and fears, images and thoughts, ideas and concepts… What kind of world can a man create who is stupid, greedy and heartless?Nisargadatta Maharaj

The disappearance of China’s wetlands is yet another example of the globe’s most populous nation sacrificing food production capacity to maintain its dominance in manufacturing. The process has generated a bounty of goods for US consumers—including the device on which I’m writing this piece and probably the one you’re using to read it: indeed, smartphones.

But it has also put severe pressure on the country’s ability to feed its population. More than 40 percent of China’s arable land has been degraded by some combination of erosion, salinization, or acidification—and nearly 20 percent of it is polluted with heavy metals, whether by industrial effluent, sewage, excessive farm chemicals, or mining runoff.” -Tom Philpott

“We are bearing witness to the kind of world described by Maharaj 40 years ago. We are obviously ensconced in personal clouds of desire, fear, images, thoughts, ideas, and concepts, at almost every moment of our increasingly zombified waking state in the form of screens and their blizzards of ‘content’ provided most prominently by the Grand Dame of Filter Bubbles I like to refer to as Facetwigram. The stupidity, greed and heartlessness that produced this “bounty of goods” has precipitated Earth’s 6th and fastest progressing mass extinction & global ecological collapse. We are literally in the process of destroying our biosphere; with it, our ability to produce food and water in order to enable the continued growth and development of our technosphere and “economic development”.  This heedless, ecocidal madness cannot continue for very much longer.” -OSJ

Written By Toh Philpott @ Mother Jones:

A sixth of the globe’s fish catch comes from waters off China’s coasts. Yet the nation’s industrial push is imperiling that 15 million-ton annual haul. Fully 60 percent of the China’s wetlands have been paved over for development projects—and much of what’s left is under threat of more of the same.

Between 2000 and 2013 alone, China’s total coastal wetlands shrank by about 23 percent.

That’s the conclusion of a jarring new report (hat tip to the New York Times) by the US-based Paulson Institute, the Chinese State Forestry Administration, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Coastal wetlands are the breeding and feeding grounds for fish, migratory birds, and other creatures. They also buffer coastal cities from the sea’s caprices by absorbing energy from storm-roiled waves—an increasingly important function as climate change proceeds apace. Over the last half century, the report found, China has developed more than half of the coastal wetlands in its temperate northern regions and nearly three-quarters of the mangrove forests and 80 percent of coral reefs along its southern coast. Losses accelerated between 2003 and 2013—in that time frame alone, China’s total coastal wetlands shrank by about 23 percent.

To address the situation, the Chinese government decreed earlier this year that intact wetland acreage should not fall beneath a “red line” of 131.8 million acres, which it established as a minimum for ecological stability in its coastal regions and to maintain wild fisheries. The problem is, the report states that remaining coastal acreage already hovers at just above that level, and there are plans in place to develop another 1.4 million acres by 2020.

The consequences are dire. China’s wetlands are “irreplaceable and integral parts of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway” for migratory birds, providing “critical breeding, staging and over-wintering sites” for 246 species, including 22 that are listed as globally threatened, the report found.

Then there are those prodigious fisheries off China’s coast. They’ve been “over-fished for a long time,” the report states, and to pave is to remove the breeding and nursery sites that replenish them.

The disappearance of China’s wetlands is yet another example of the globe’s most populous nation sacrificing food production capacity to maintain its dominance in manufacturing. The process has generated a bounty of goods for US consumers—including the device on which I’m writing this piece and probably the one you’re using to read it: indeed, smartphones.

But it has also put severe pressure on the country’s ability to feed its population. More than 40 percent of China’s arable land has been degraded by some combination of erosion, salinization, or acidification—and nearly 20 percent of it is polluted with heavy metals, whether by industrial effluent, sewage, excessive farm chemicals, or mining runoff. These are chilling numbers, given that China has just 0.2 acres of arable land per capita—less than half of the global average and a quarter of the average for OECD member countries. (The United Sates has 1.2 acres per person.)

Now wetlands destruction is threatening the nation’s fisheries. No wonder it’s looking elsewhere for food production, investing in farmland in Africa, South America, and Central Asia, and buying up 64 percent of the globe’s internationally traded soybeans.

Big Oil Uses U.S. Gov’t To Eliminate Threats To Drilling Plans, Research Supressed, Scientists Harassed, Terminated

In Uncategorized on September 8, 2015 at 3:27 pm

Source: Greenpeace

Oldspeak: “It is a systemic problem far beyond BOEMRE, It’s in all the agencies, the universities. It’s state and federal and a broad systemic problem in Alaska….There is an unwritten orthodoxy in Alaska, that dissenting opinions regarding unsustainable economic and political paradigms here need to be suppressed and silenced. Everybody knows that. There’s a very strong political dynamic where agencies and public institutions like the university are captured by the oil industry because it pays 95% of the state budget. Federal agencies bend over backwards for the oil industry and tend to marginalize voices that threaten that dynamic. If you criticize oil, you will have hell to pay… There aren’t very many dissenters. The whole point of making an example of me and Charles [Monnett] was to suppress people from doing that in the future. People have learned that if they want to keep their job and their pay check, and their pension and their benefits, they need to keep their head down.” –Dr. Rick Steiner, Professor, Marine Conservation

“In the context of this reality, in a maniacal ecocidal ever more destructive pursuit of profit, is there any wonder that Alaska is on fire as in no other time in recorded history? This is perfect example of the madness of Inverted Corptalitarian Kleptocracy begotten by Industrial Civilization. Corportate “persons” funding government education and research institutions and dictating what is and isn’t researched, published and disclosed. Important science and research censored, scientists abused, harassed and drummed out of jobs when their findings don’t serve the ends of polluters. Can we reasonably expect anything but politically mediated and watered down science and research from institutions in the unfortunate condition of being captured by the industries their findings affect? Not likely. “Profit Is Paramout”,  -OSJ.

Written By Kamil Ashan @ Alter Net:

In February 2011, Charles Monnett, an Arctic marine biologist who in 2006 published the first observations of a decline in the polar bear population of the Arctic due to melting sea ice, was interviewed by Eric May and Lynn Gibson from the Department of Interior’s Office of the Inspector General. The conversation was perplexing. May and Gibson, criminal investigators with the IG, began by suggesting that Monnett was being investigated for scientific misconduct, but early on in the conversation they admitted that neither of them had any training in science and biology.

From there, the transcript of the conversation, a document released by Monnett’s legal representation, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), becomes murkier. May and Gibson’s line of questioning shifts several times, making it increasingly unclear what aspects of misconduct were being investigated. Monnett explains that his findings, published in Polar Biology, were peer-reviewed; May responds by asking how Polar Biology got involved. Monnett painstakingly takes May and Gibson through the calculations and observations underlying his data, but they seem dissatisfied and change tacks.

What happened after isn’t murky at all. Soon after the interview, Dr. Monnett’s hard drive and notebooks were seized. In July 2011, Monnett found out from his employer, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE), that he had been put been put on administrative leave, barring him from speaking to his colleagues or continuing his research.

The investigation had turned in to a virtual witch-hunt—but when the IG finally released its report toward the end of 2012, its only allegations were of an administrative nature. Monnett subsequently filed a whistleblower complaint against BOEMRE, alleging that the official harassment had impeded him from doing his job and that the Interior Department was violating its own scientific integrity policies intended to protect federal scientists from political interference. In November 2013, Monnett reached a $100,000 settlement with BOEMRE.

The tale of Dr. Monnett is now a few years old, but instructive. Both Monnett and PEER have maintained that Monnett was harassed and essentially eliminated from the ranks of BOEMRE because he represented a threat to the financial stakes of oil companies like Shell hoping to open up the Alaskan Arctic for offshore drilling projects, and that suppressing scientific research was seen as necessary for Shell’s permits to go through. At the time, BOEMRE had been reviewing Shell’s plans to drill in the Arctic. It approved those permits in 2012, and again, in a highly contentious decision by the Obama administration, earlier this year.

Now, years after the debacle, Monnett says he has complex feelings about the dynamics of the science done in federal agencies, given how overbearing the oil industry is and its pervasive influence on the government.

The Bush administration, Monnett recalls, had “created an environment where the managers [of BOEMRE] were very hostile and aggressive towards some of the scientists…which led to a number of people leaving the agency. These people were being actively attacked by managers, screamed at in hallways, threatened with all sorts of actions. Some of them were even being threatened with legal action. The agency just wasn’t receptive to honest analysis.”

“Because of pressure from industry and the administration…certain timelines had to be met, and those timelines weren’t long enough to allow [scientists] to do complete analysis. Management was dictating the outcomes…which is against the law in my view.”

The Bush administration’s agenda from the very beginning was pro-drilling, and therefore invested in fast-tracking Shell’s permits for the Arctic. During the administration’s tenure, there was a mass exodus of scientists from BOEMRE—at the time known as the Minerals Management Service—who were under pressure to overlook the overwhelming environmental concerns of Arctic oil drilling in their analyses.

But Monnett’s investigation began in 2011, not during the Bush administration but during the Obama administration, foretelling Obama’s climate legacy of paying lip service to climate change while fast-tracking Shell’s offshore drilling plans all the same.

On Monday morning, President Obama arrived in Alaska to shed “a spotlight on what Alaskans in particular have come to know: climate change is one of the biggest threats we face, it is driven by human activity, and it is disrupting Americans’ lives right now.” The trip, mere weeks after the final approval for Shell’s summer plans to drill in the Chukchi Sea, is likely to be seen in retrospect as illustrative of the schizophrenic energy policy the Obama administration has long espoused.

The Limits of Academic Freedom

Scientific suppression and the loss of many scientists to BOEMRE during the Bush administration have been well-documented, but as Dr. Monnett’s case reveals, something similar, if not worse, has been underfoot during the current administration. As the case of Professor Rick Steiner demonstrates, the influence of oil goes well beyond federal agencies in Alaska.

A tenured professor of marine conservation at the University of Alaska, Steiner spent a large part of his career in the Arctic and then Anchorage, Alaska. Steiner had been a vocal opponent of offshore oil drilling since the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 and a staunch defender of marine conservation—positions that got him in to trouble multiple times during his career.

In December 2007, soon after Monnett’s polar bear paper was published, there was a federal proposed rule to list polar bears under the Endangered Species Act. At the time, Gov. Sarah Palin publicly stated that Alaska state marine mammal biologists (ADFG) disagreed with the rule, but Steiner was unsatisfied. After much resistance from the ADFG, he obtained the state review through a federal Freedom of Information Act request. The review, underscoring the dishonesty of the Palin administration, showed that marine mammal scientists overwhelmingly agreed that polar bears should be classified as endangered. This move, and many others, put Steiner on the radar as a staunch advocate of marine conservation and opponent of the pervasive influence of the oil industry in Alaska.

In 2008, when the federal government began to consider an expansion of oil development projects in Alaska, Steiner continued to raise major environmental concerns. Written records released by PEER chart out what happened next: the University of Alaska and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration terminated the grant funding for Steiner’s research work. The documents demonstrate how pressure from NOAA led university officials to cut Steiner’s funding: federal officials wrote that they “had an issue with Steiner” and that his environmental advocacy could “cause problems nationally” for the agency. PEER called this one of the first instances where a university and federal agency admitted to removing a faculty member’s funding because of their environmental positions.

Steiner filed multiple internal grievance claims which were all rejected by the university, and in February 2010, Dr. Steiner resigned from the university faculty on principle. Soon after, he was told by a friend who had been in a meeting with university officials that oil executives had met with university officials, telling them point blank that as long as Steiner continued to oppose the oil industry, the university would not get a dime of its money. The University of Alaska, like many public institutions in Alaska, is funded largely by oil revenues.

Like Monnett, Steiner says his experience taught him the limits to academic and scientific freedom in a place like Alaska. “It is a systemic problem far beyond BOEMRE,” he explains. “It’s in all the agencies, the universities. It’s state and federal and a broad systemic problem in Alaska.

“[The University] felt I was being too much of an advocate for marine conservation which is in contradiction to their professed goal of being in favor of academic freedom.”

And indeed, the brazen nature of the university’s statements on Steiner’s case is deeply shocking. In the recommendation to cut Steiner’s funding, Dean Wiesenburg of the University of Alaska noted that Steiner “regularly takes strong public positions on issues of public debate.” Steiner, he said, “has chosen to be a maverick and work independently.”

To Steiner, what this means is clear. “There is an unwritten orthodoxy in Alaska,” he explains, “that dissenting opinions regarding unsustainable economic and political paradigms here need to be suppressed and silenced. Everybody knows that. There’s a very strong political dynamic where agencies and public institutions like the university are captured by the oil industry because it pays 95% of the state budget. Federal agencies bend over backwards for the oil industry and tend to marginalize voices that threaten that dynamic. If you criticize oil, you will have hell to pay.”

“There aren’t very many dissenters. The whole point of making an example of me and Charles [Monnett] was to suppress people from doing that in the future. People have learned that if they want to keep their job and their pay check, and their pension and their benefits, they need to keep their head down.”

A Handy Guide to Scientific Suppression

The cases of Charles Monnett and Rick Steiner have dire implications for how we view Shell’s offshore drilling plans in the Chukchi Sea this summer, and the lengths to which they went to acquire the permits. Much of this can only be guessed at. Steiner talks about the prevailing culture where federal agencies and universities begin to eliminate scientists who do not conform to the pro-oil agenda by not granting promotions or incentive awards, or giving them inadequate annual performance reviews. Another tactic, he says, is overwhelming staff scientists with trivial tasks, pulling them off projects for which they are qualified.

Jeff Ruch, executive director of PEER, an organization that seeks to protect scientist whistleblowers, can add to this list. “The range of things we see,” he says, “range from attempts to terminate, suspend, crippling internal investigations. In one case involving a lab director, the funding for his graduate students was jeopardized so he lost a lot of his research capacity. Preventing publications has no limits—in one case, a scientist was raising issues and her email privileges were taken away. We were left scratching our heads wondering how that could have happened.”

One possible remedy is scientific integrity policies that protect whistleblowers, but as Ruch explains, they are far from satisfactory. “Industry puts pressure on government agencies, and government agencies are the instrument of retaliation,” he explains. “For the most part, scientists have few legal protections. These scientists are not covered by whistleblower laws, because they’re not disclosing violations of law, fraud, or abuse. They’re disclosing suppression of research, or watering down of methodologies or the omission of key findings.”

“The law generally treats these as a matter of opinion and in these cases, the chain of command generally wins over the staff scientist.”

In his experience, Ruch says “scientific integrity policies operate within the Department of the Interior—those were weakened in December to make it even more difficult to sustain a complaint. Up until that time, there had been 2 instances out of 14 where the scientist involved faced multiple suspensions and the responsible managers escaped punishment altogether. It’s difficult to advise scientists in good conscience to file complaints under their own name because they’re unlikely to resolve in anything good.”

Early in 2009, Obama released a presidential directive to develop policies that restore scientific integrity to federal actions, including providing federal scientists better whistleblower protections. At the time, this was hailed as a huge leap in the right direction.

Ruch feels not much has changed. “The agencies in the Interior have largely ignored the presidential directive,” he explains. “Some policies claim protections but have no mechanisms by which that protection is implemented, which makes it empty protection.”

Environmental groups argue that this scientific suppression, and overlooking the enormous environmental risks, has been key to the Obama administration’s approval of Shell’s permits this year. Much of the information detailing the safety and reliability of Shell’s operations has not been released to the public, despite multiple FOIA requests by groups like Greenpeace and PEER. A recent FOIA request by PEER, directed at the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), seeks to release information on how Shell’s plans for certified by third-party observers, as well as information on the deployment of capping stack and containment domes in the event of an oil spill. BSEE has not responded. PEER has now filed a lawsuit in a federal district court to bring these details to light.

As President Obama continues his trip in Alaska to highlight the dangers of climate change amid overwhelming opposition from environmental and indigenous groups, it begs big questions about the administration’s overarching legacy with federal scientists and the oil industry. Ruch feels strongly about this: “In terms of the actions inside these agencies, there has been no discernible difference between those under George Bush, who was an oil man, and Barack Obama, a constitutional law professor who when his own Commission on the Deepwater Horizon spill met with him, one of the very first questions he asked was about Arctic drilling.”

“It has been clear that Arctic drilling is part of the ‘all-the-above’ energy strategy and the same sort of suppression and the same suite of issues have never really been analyzed.”

For an administration pretending to conduct a dramatic push toward mitigating climate change, that is a shameful record.


Kamil Ahsan is a freelance journalist and a doctoral student in developmental biology at the University of Chicago.

Study – Earth’s Battery Level Critical: Continued Destruction Of Earth’s Biomass Foretells Grim Future For Life On Earth

In Uncategorized on August 28, 2015 at 6:29 pm

Fig. 1. Earth-space battery.The planet is a positive charge of stored organic chemical energy (cathode) in the form of biomass and fossil fuels. As this energy is dissipated by humans, it eventually radiates as heat toward the chemical equilibrium of deep space (anode). The battery is rapidly discharging without replenishment.

Oldspeak: I’ll let the scientists tell it:

Earth is a chemical battery where, over evolutionary time with a trickle-charge of photosynthesis using solar energy, billions of tons of living biomass were stored in forests and other ecosystems and in vast reserves of fossil fuels. In just the last few hundred years, humans extracted exploitable energy from these living and fossilized biomass fuels to build the modern industrial-technological-informational economy, to grow our population to more than 7 billion, and to transform the biogeochemical cycles and biodiversity of the earth. This rapid discharge of the earth’s store of organic energy fuels the human domination of the biosphere, including conversion of natural habitats to agricultural fields and the resulting loss of native species, emission of carbon dioxide and the resulting climate and sea level change, and use of supplemental nuclear, hydro, wind, and solar energy sources. The laws of thermodynamics governing the trickle-charge and rapid discharge of the earth’s battery are universal and absolute; the earth is only temporarily poised a quantifiable distance from the thermodynamic equilibrium of outer space.

Although this distance from equilibrium is comprised of all energy types, most critical for humans is the store of living biomass. With the rapid depletion of this chemical energy, the earth is shifting back toward the inhospitable equilibrium of outer space with fundamental ramifications for the biosphere and humanity. Because there is no substitute or replacement energy for living biomass, the remaining distance from equilibrium that will be required to support human life is unknown.
Eventually, without sufficient living biomass to run the biosphere, it simply doesn’t matter how much oil, solar, nuclear, etc. energy you have, as there is no biosphere left for humans to use it. Biomass is not an interchangeable energy. There is no replacement and we are depleting it rapidly.
As we burn organic chemical energy, we generate work to grow our population and economy. In the process the high-quality chemical energy is transformed into heat and lost from the planet by radiation into outer space. The flow of energy from cathode to anode is moving the planet rapidly and irrevocably closer to the sterile chemical equilibrium of space.
Unless biomass stores stabilize, human civilization is unsustainable.
The Earth is in serious energetic imbalance due to human energy use. This imbalance defines our most dominant conflict with nature. It really is a conflict in the sense that the current energy imbalance, a crisis unprecedented in Earth history, is a direct consequence of technological innovation.
Ironically, powerful political and market forces, rather than acting to conserve the remaining charge in the battery, actually push in the opposite direction because the pervasive efforts to increase economic growth will require increased energy consumption.”
Dr. John R. Schramski et al. June 2015
the earth is shifting back toward the inhospitable equilibrium of outer space with fundamental ramifications for the biosphere and humanity.” You can say that again. Not a “doomer”, not a “Nihilist” that said that, but a good old fashioned, dyed in the wool and presumably conservative, scientist. As I’ve been saying for some time now. It’s just physics at this point. And the physics are SHITTY for probability of continued survival of humans and most other forms of complex life on Earth. As has been discussed here, humans are using ever increasingly unsustainable quantities of biomass. With no tenable plans for population control in place or even being discussed (every one has a right to babies dammit!), or sufficiently sustainable limits to biomass consumption,  We can expect human population to increase in relation to depletion of biomass. Unfortunately for us, biomass is not infinite at current and future levels of consumption. We have used HALF the amount of biomass that it took billions of years to accumulate: 1,000 billion tons of carbon in living biomass; in the last 2000 years. 10 percent of it in the last 100 years.  So energy consumption and energy depletion is increasing exponentially. This is unsustainable. Our technology and cleverness will not make everything ok this time. Our actions will likely make things worse. Yet we’re being driven maniacally, ceaselessly, to “do more”, to “fight climate change”, not understanding that every time we do something, we’re merely increasing our increasingly unsustainable and irreplaceable earth battery usage. And carbon footprint. Nothing we “do” can be done without plunging us further into ecological debt and destruction. That is what you call a conundrum Kimosabe. The technology many magical thinkers are trusting to “fix it”, requires tremendous amounts of resources and energy to produce and maintain. Resources and energy that are rapidly and unsustainably being depleted.  In this stage of this mass extinction event, our “actions” serve only to hasten our extinction. Marches won’t stop it. Policy changes wont stop it. Geo-engineering won’t stop it. Hopium won’t stop it. We’re simply too far gone now. Can’t shift into reverse. One of the studies author’s said it best: “I call myself a realistic optimist, I’ve gone through these numbers countless times looking for some kind of mitigating factor that suggests we’re wrong, but I haven’t found it.” Eventually Earth, the sacred battery upon which we depend inextricably for energy and life, will go dead. At some point shortly after that,  we and most life on Earth will go extinct, and at some point in the distant future, the microbes inherit the Earth. And SCENE. Show’s over folk. Humans will be added to the geologic history pile of  species that used to be here. It happens all the time. It’s the circle of life. Some times on, some times off. Read the actual Study if you can.  Good stuff in there.” -OSJ
Related Link:
Written By James Hataway @ University Of Georgia:

Unless humans slow the destruction of Earth’s declining supply of plant life, civilization like it is now may become completely unsustainable, according to a paper published recently by University of Georgia researchers in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“You can think of the Earth like a battery that has been charged very slowly over billions of years,” said the study’s lead author, John Schramski, an associate professor in UGA’s College of Engineering. “The sun’s energy is stored in plants and fossil fuels, but humans are draining energy much faster than it can be replenished.”

Earth was once a barren landscape devoid of life, he explained, and it was only after billions of years that simple organisms evolved the ability to transform the sun’s light into energy. This eventually led to an explosion of plant and animal life that bathed the planet with lush forests and extraordinarily diverse ecosystems.

The study’s calculations are grounded in the fundamental principles of thermodynamics, a branch of physics concerned with the relationship between heat and mechanical energy. Chemical energy is stored in plants, or biomass, which is used for food and fuel, but which is also destroyed to make room for agriculture and expanding cities.

Scientists estimate that the Earth contained approximately 1,000 billion tons of carbon in living biomass 2,000 years ago. Since that time, humans have reduced that amount by almost half. It is estimated that just over 10 percent of that biomass was destroyed in just the last century.

“If we don’t reverse this trend, we’ll eventually reach a point where the biomass battery discharges to a level at which Earth can no longer sustain us,” Schramski said.

Working with James H. Brown from the University of New Mexico, Schramski and UGA’s David Gattie, an associate professor in the College of Engineering, show that the vast majority of losses come from deforestation, hastened by the advent of large-scale mechanized farming and the need to feed a rapidly growing population. As more biomass is destroyed, the planet has less stored energy, which it needs to maintain Earth’s complex food webs and biogeochemical balances.

“As the planet becomes less hospitable and more people depend on fewer available energy options, their standard of living and very survival will become increasingly vulnerable to fluctuations, such as droughts, disease epidemics and social unrest,” Schramski said.

If human beings do not go extinct, and biomass drops below sustainable thresholds, the population will decline drastically, and people will be forced to return to life as hunter-gatherers or simple horticulturalists, according to the paper.

“I’m not an ardent environmentalist; my training and my scientific work are rooted in thermodynamics,” Schramski said. “These laws are absolute and incontrovertible; we have a limited amount of biomass energy available on the planet, and once it’s exhausted, there is absolutely nothing to replace it.”

Schramski and his collaborators are hopeful that recognition of the importance of biomass, elimination of its destruction and increased reliance on renewable energy will slow the steady march toward an uncertain future, but the measures required to stop that progression may have to be drastic.

“I call myself a realistic optimist,” Schramski said. “I’ve gone through these numbers countless times looking for some kind of mitigating factor that suggests we’re wrong, but I haven’t found it.”

The study, on “Human Domination of the Biosphere: Rapid Discharge of the Earth-Space Battery Foretells the Future of Humankind,” will be available online at www.pnas.org/content/early/recent the week of July 13.

Ecological Crisis And The Tragedy Of The Commodity

In Uncategorized on July 28, 2015 at 12:23 pm


Oldspeak:”The ceaseless drive for accumulation inherent in capitalist commodity production speeds up the social metabolism. It results in a faster depletion of resources, stemming from increasing demands for materials and throughput, and the generation of ever-more waste. It degrades the conditions that support resilient ecosystems. The capitalist system creates numerous contradictions between nature and commodities; it progressively deepens and creates ecological rifts.”-Brett Clark and Richard York

“Yep. The above statement delineates the folly of market-based “green economy” responses to global warming and climate change. De-growth is not an option. Infinite growth and accumulation are immutable imperatives.This is the inherent and terminally destructive nature of the system of Global Industrial Capitalist Civilization which has played a major role in bringing about Earth’s 6th Mass extinction. Commodifying All has a price; and it is the end life on earth. The piece ends with a hopium-laced “sustainable” way forward, that artfully prescribes an end to capitalism, replacing it with an anacro-syndicalist, decentralized and democratized sociocultural system. Great idea. Far too late to matter as our proverbial goose is cooked.” -OSJ

Written By

We live in an era of ecological crisis, which is a direct result of human actions. Natural scientists have been debating whether the current historical epoch should be called the Anthropocene, in order to mark the period in which human activities became the primary driver of global ecological change.[1]

Initially, it was proposed that this new epoch, corresponding with the rise of modern capitalist and industrial development, began in the eighteenth century. The growth imperative of capitalism, as well as other sociocultural changes, is a primary factor generating major environmental problems that culminate in ecological crisis.[2]

It has become increasingly clear that humans face an existential crisis. The environmental writer and activist Bill McKibben explains:

Earth has changed in profound ways, ways that have already taken us out of the sweet spot where humans so long thrived…. The world hasn’t ended, but the world as we know it has—even if we don’t quite know it yet. We imagine we still live back on that old planet, that the disturbances we see around us are the old random and freakish kind. But they’re not. It’s a different place. A different planet…. This is one of those rare moments, the start of a change far larger and more thoroughgoing than anything we can read in the records of man, on a par with the biggest dangers we can read in the records of rock and ice.[3]

Many modern ecological problems are referred to as a tragedy of the commons, a concept developed by Garrett Hardin in the 1960s to describe the overexploitation or despoliation of natural resources.[4] We contend that they are actually associated with the tragedy of the commodity. While an obvious play on Hardin’s concept, this approach offers, we argue, a much more comprehensive and historically appropriate analysis of the drivers of ecological degradation.

The classic illustration of the tragedy of the commons used by Hardin involved the dynamic of herders and their livestock. He claimed that each herder will act primarily in his or her own interest by adding additional livestock to common grazing land when it served to increase individual benefits. Therefore, Hardin argued, each herder would attempt to acquire the benefits offered by the commons, while socializing the costs to all. For example, by adding an extra animal to the pasture the herder reaps all the benefit, but pays only a fraction of the environmental costs, such as depletion of the grazing land. Each actor, motivated by individual maximization of benefits, increasingly introduces grazing animals into a finite system of resources, leading to the tragic destruction of the land. With this Hardin concludes “freedom in commons brings ruin to all.”[5] For Hardin, and many others who have adopted this perspective, expanding private property is offered as a leading policy solution for avoiding ecological tragedies.[6]

The tragedy of the commons theory explains the behaviors of individual actors in given social circumstances. However, it does not address how historical conditions and the socioeconomic system influence individual actors. In other words, the social context is simply taken for granted. The existing social conditions and relations are regarded as ever-present, universal, and permanent. The model neglects to recognize that human interactions and exchanges with ecological systems change through time and are regulated by particular institutional conditions. Once examined from a sociological perspective, the tragedy of the commons theory is simplistic and one-sided in that it attempts to explain human social behavior, or human agency, without a thorough understanding of the historical social organization.[7] This simplification results in a mystification of the modern systems of production and consumption and the historically specific ecosystem effects.

In contrast, the tragedy of the commodity approach emphasizes the role of the growth imperative of capitalism and commodification in producing the institutional rules by which nature and, for example, the commons are governed and historically transformed. Ecological systems are never altogether free of social influences. Rather, they are shaped by social conditions including norms, traditions, economic rules, the organization of labor, politico-legal arrangements, etc.[8] The social actions that have emerged with capitalist development are dominated by what Adam Smith called “the propensity to truck, barter, and exchange,” matched with a crude utilitarianism, where individuals follow pure self-interest without social constraint. Unfortunately, these actions are often incorrectly ascribed to innate human behavior.[9] Thus, what might appear to the casual observer to be a system governed by base greed and human instinct is in fact largely directed by the drive for capital accumulation and what Immanuel Wallerstein called the progressive “commodification of everything.”[10] Among other outcomes, the commodification process results in a social metabolic order—socio-ecological interchanges and interrelationships—that produces unsustainable social and ecological consequences.

In a society organized around the logic of capital, human activities tend to be directed toward the production of commodities. That is, capitalism can be understood in a broad sense as a system of generalized commodity production. The institutional arrangements result in particular social arrangements and generate distinct types of human social action. The commodity serves as a basic unit to understand the larger culture-nature relations and capitalism itself. It is a base element of capitalist market processes.

Nature is an essential source of use value, or the qualitative usefulness of things. For example, Earth’s biogeochemical systems provide the conditions and means that allow for the production of food. Karl Marx emphasized that under capitalist relations, nature was seen as a free gift; it was not considered as part of wealth.[11] He famously explained this in terms of a “general formula for capital”—whereby capital is understood as the “continuous transformation of capital-as-money into capital-as-commodities, followed by a retransformation of capital-as-commodities into capital-as-more-money.”[12] Even though use value expresses the useful properties of an item or service, it is exchange value, or market value, which knows only quantitative increase and drives capitalist economic activity.

Money is put into circulation in order to return money, a quantity for a quantity, “its driving and motivating force is therefore exchange-value.”[13] Thus, capital constantly expands into more capital, motivated by surplus value or profits, the generation of which is “the absolute law of this mode of production.”[14] Under this logic, money dominates the organization of social and natural relationships. Addressing the pervasiveness of this logic, Karl Polanyi explained, “All transactions are turned into money transactions.”[15] The emergence of an all-encompassing, self-regulating, market disembedded human practical activity from its foundation in the broader sociocultural and environmental conditions. Market activity directed by commodity production for the endless accumulation of capital acquired the irresistible impetus of a “process of nature.”[16] Accordingly, the organization of production and consumption activities is fundamentally transformed from the exchange of qualities into the exchange of quantities. Alienation from each other and nature increases, as qualitative relations of production and the universal metabolism of nature are subsumed under the quantitative growth imperative of capital and a culture of quantity.[17] This fundamental tension between the necessity of quantitative expansion to sustain the economic relations and the qualitatively unsustainable ecological consequences marks the defining characteristic of the modern ecological crisis and the tragedy of the commodity.

Capital tends to simplify natural processes and ecosystems, imposing a division of nature to increase economic efficiency. It directs the life cycles of plants and animals to the economic cycle of exchange. Qualitative social relations—such as subsistence use within an ecosystem—are not part of the capitalist accounting system and can suffer various forms of destruction as a result. Use values, as the qualitative means for meeting the needs of life, are limited given biophysical properties. In contrast, there are no limits to quantitative measures of wealth. In other words, growing returns on investment have no end, but real human needs are confined to definite and knowable material limits.

The ceaseless drive for accumulation inherent in capitalist commodity production speeds up the social metabolism. It results in a faster depletion of resources, stemming from increasing demands for materials and throughput, and the generation of ever-more waste. It degrades the conditions that support resilient ecosystems. The capitalist system creates numerous contradictions between nature and commodities; it progressively deepens and creates ecological rifts.[18]

The way forward, toward a more sustainable world, requires radical changes in the social conditions that have historically shaped the productive and consumption system of capitalism. Collective action must take back public commons and put them in control of the people who most closely interact with them and depend on them for community well-being. In order to be successful, these actions must (in effect) de-commodify nature. Commons must be decentralized and democratized, rather than, in the standard neoliberal view, privatized. Farmland and fisheries must be socially organized to advance nourishment and health. Forests must be valued as reserves of biodiversity, clean water, and culture. Economic activities must be embedded within society as a whole and the universal metabolism of the biophysical world, allowing for the continuation of reproductive processes, nutrient cycles, and energy flows that support all life. Human society must transcend the logic of capital, creating a new social metabolic order that increases the quality of life and enhances the potential for ecological flourishing and universal human freedom.

Recently, Pope Francis highlighted what we have been calling the tragedy of the commodity. In his highly publicized Encyclical on the environment, he mentions the “tragic effects of environmental degradation.” He goes on to say: “Where profits alone count, there can be no thinking about the rhythms of nature, its phases of decay and regeneration, or the complexity of ecosystems which may be gravely upset by human intervention. Moreover, biodiversity is considered at most a deposit of economic resources available for exploitation, with no serious thought for the real value of things, their significance for persons and cultures, or the concerns and needs of the poor.”[xix] He contends that a “cultural revolution” is required to address ecological crisis.

Interestingly, Pope Francis limited his suggested response to a cultural revolution when it is clear throughout the document that he is describing a political-economic problem. We agree that a revolutionary approach is necessary for addressing the ecological crisis. Nothing short will be adequate for challenging the tragedy of the commodity.

This essay is based on the new book The Tragedy of the Commodity: Oceans Fisheries and Aquaculture by Stefano B. Longo, Rebecca Clausen, and Brett Clark, published by Rutgers University Press (2015).

Works Cited.

[1]. Paul J. Crutzen, “Geology of Mankind,” Nature 415, no. 6867 (2002): 23; Jan Zalasiewicz et al., “The New World of the Anthropocene,” Environmental Science & Technology 44, no. 7 (2010): 2228-31.

[2]. Will Steffen et al., “The Anthropocene: Conceptual and Historical Perspectives,” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society 369, no. 1938 (2011): 842–67.

[3]. Bill McKibben, Eaarth: Making Life on a Tough New Planet (New York: Times Books, 2010), 2-3.

[4]. Garrett Hardin, “The Tragedy of the Commons,” Science 162, no. 3859 (1968):


[5]. Hardin, “The Tragedy of the Commons,” 1244.

[6]. Theorists of the tragedy of the commons also acknowledge the potential for state action and management as alternative arrangements for promoting resource conservation. See Elinor Ostrom et al., The Drama of the Commons (Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2002).

[7]. Bonnie J. McCay and Svein Jentoft, “Uncommon Ground: Critical Perspectives on Common Property” in Human Footprints on the Global Environment: Threats to Sustainability, ed. Eugene A. Rosa et al. (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2010), 207.

[8]. Thomas Dietz et al., “The Struggle to Govern the Commons,” Science

302, no. 5652 (2003): 1907–1912; Elinor Ostrom et al., “Revisiting the Commons,” Science 284, no. 5412 (1999): 278–282.

[9]. Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, 2 Volumes (London: Methuen & Co., 1930); Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. 1 (New York: Vintage, 1976); Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation (Boston: Beacon Press, 2001).

[10]. Immanuel Wallerstein, Historical Capitalism with Capitalist Civilization (London: Verso, 1983).

[11]. John Bellamy Foster, Brett Clark, and Richard York, The Ecological Rift: Capitalism’s War on the Earth (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2010).

[12]. Robert L. Heilbroner, The Nature and Logic of Capitalism (New York: W. W. Norton, 1985), 36.

[13]. Marx, Capital, Vol. 1, 250.

[14]. Ibid., 769.

[15]. Polanyi, The Great Transformation, 44.

[16]. Ibid., 132.

[17]. István Mészáros, Marx’s Theory of Alienation (London: Merlin Press, 1986), 35.

[18]. Brett Clark and Richard York, “Rifts and Shifts: Getting to the Roots of Environmental Crises,” Monthly Review 60, no. 6 (2008): 13–24.

[xix]. Pope Francis, Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ of the Holy Father Francis on Care for Our Common Home (Vatican Press, 2015), 12, 139.

“It’s Like We Think Nature Is For Free”: The US Now Has An ‘Ecological Deficit,’ Report Finds

In Uncategorized on July 21, 2015 at 12:49 pm

Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 12.51.33 PMOldspeak: “Despite being the third richest country in the world in terms of natural resources, the United States is using resources nearly twice as fast as they can be naturally sustained…That is in large part due to California, which is using resources eight times faster than they can be renewed and in the midst of a severe drought… it would take eight Californias to support the state’s large population, voracious appetite for water, and carbon footprint.” –Erik Sherman

“Yep. That’s happening. California, much like the rest of the developed world is rapidly depleting earths natural capital at ever more unsustainable rates. This can only continue for so much longer. As would be expected in a finance publication, this problem in discussed in the language of the market, with resources discussed as commodities with value. The author of this piece names “winners” and “losers” blaming offending states for the deficit, and highlighting the states doing the best at resource conservation. No discussion or critical analysis of omnicidal hyper-destructive extractive economic system and cultural ethos that is Industrial Civilization. No acknowledgment of the root cause of the conditions we see in the world today and how its demands are driving humanity’s suicidal behaviour. Sigh… Mark your calendars kids! World Ecological Deficit Day is August 13th! Everything Is AWESOME!” -OSJ

Written By Eric Sherman @ Fortune:

California — in the fourth year of its drought — is just one of many states to blame, a new report finds.

The United States reached a grim milestone on July 14. It officially has an “ecological deficit,” meaning the U.S. has exhausted all the natural resources that can be replenished in a year, according to a new report from two non-profit environmental groups. Everything from now until December 31 is deficit environmental spending.

Despite being the third richest country in the world in terms of natural resources, the United States is using resources nearly twice as fast as they can be naturally sustained, according to the report by Oakland, California-based Global Footprint Network and Tacoma, Washington-based Earth Economics.

That is in large part due to California, which is using resources eight times faster than they can be renewed and in the midst of a severe drought. According to the report, it would take eight Californias to support the state’s large population, voracious appetite for water, and carbon footprint. But Texas and Florida also have high ecological deficits.

In fact, although Texas and Michigan are the two states with the “greatest natural capital wealth,” they are at great risk for drought and water shortages, due to their overall large populations and high demand for energy and other natural resources. Additionally, the report found that only 16 states are currently living within their “means” — their supply of natural resources. New York is the state with the lowest ecological footprint per capita, in large part due to its mass transportation system.

A significant deficit in one resource, like water, can have a profound ripple effect across the economy. California’s four-year drought, for instance, has wreaked havoc on the agricultural industry; farm revenue losses are projected to be $1.8 billion, with 8,550 farm jobs lost. The state’s dairy and cattle industries could lose $350 million in revenue this year, NBC reports.

As a country, “we’re well-endowed but we haven’t paid attention much to those [ecological] constraints,” such as water supply, the ability of plant life to absorb excess carbon, availability of wetlands to help control flooding, energy generation, and food production, Mathis Wackernagel, lead author of the report and president of Global Footprint Network, told Fortune.

Some states are ahead of the curve. Idaho, Washington, Oregon, South Dakota, and Maine are all advanced in moving away from fossil fuels, with each producing 60 percent or more of its electricity from renewables. Maryland has pioneered ways of making capital investment decisions. The state looked at future ecological supply and condition scenarios in the decision process to invest in all-electric fleet vehicles as well as an $18 million investment in 3,000 weatherization measures projected to save as much as $69 million in avoided natural gas, electricity, and carbon emission costs over 20 years.

But other states in an ecological deficit will have to begin addressing the problems soon to avoid a big cost in economic problems and human suffering. “The big misconception is you can adjust very quickly to new realities,” Wackernagel said. “But the way we build our transport infrastructure, urban areas, even agriculture, has very slow response rates. You can’t suddenly rebuild a city or refurbish a transportation system.”

The report was created by measuring state populations’ demand for resources and the state’s available natural resources. Rather than using a typical market view of the resources as commodities, the authors used Earth Economics proprietary software that models a fuller view of the role such resources play. For example, trees aren’t just material for wood-based products but also help retain topsoil, reduce flooding, capture carbon, and help cool areas. Human consumption of natural resources for one set of uses reduces their availability for others and potentially helps put a state into ecological deficit.

Having a fuller view of the value of resources enables authorities to make wiser calculations, according to Earth Economics. For instance, after a hurricane, a community or federal agency might have to choose whether to raise a house higher or move it from the flood plane. Using the Earth Economics software, authorities’ analysis would be broader than simply comparing the immediate costs of both options.

“In looking at the benefits [of moving the house], you can reduce repetitive flooding and damage. You can also increase flood storage in that flood plane,” said David Batker, executive director of Earth Economics. However, because of the typical limited view of ecological value, argue the reports’ authors, those calculations are typically not done. That is why some heavily constrained resources — ground water in California, for example — are not monitored or priced at what a full value might be. “Just as in the 1930s we needed measures of GNP [currently GDP], money supply, and unemployment, we now need measurements of natural capital,” Batker said.

“It’s like we think nature is for free,” Wackernagel said. “It’s like someone saying my house is free because I’ve paid it off. But it’s extremely valuable. If you look at the opportunity cost of not having [the ecological resources], it’s amazing. We squander it.” The U.S., however, is not alone in this regard. The world reaches an overall ecological deficit day on August 13, according to Wackernagel.

“The Threat Is Serious And Time Is Short” : Climate Change Moves The “Doomsday Clock” To 3 Minutes To Midnight

In Uncategorized on January 28, 2015 at 6:57 pm

Oldspeak:  “Created in 1947, the clock initially served as a warning about the threat of nuclear weapons, but climate change has started to mess with the hands of time in recent years. This is the fourth update to the clock that explicitly mentions climate change, though it’s an issue that has been on the Bulletin’s radar since 1961The reason the world is closer to doomsday now is the growing clarity about impacts of climate change, including some already occurring, and the failure to address it…The only time the Doomsday Clock has been closer to midnight was in 1953, a year after hydrogen bombs were tested by the U.S. and Soviet Union in an escalating nuclear arms race. The clock also struck 11:57 p.m. in the Cold War chill of 1984.” –Bryan Kahn

The threat is serious, the time short. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists does not move the hands of the Doomsday Clock for light or transient reasons. The clock ticks now at just three minutes to midnight because international leaders are failing to perform their most important duty—ensuring and preserving the health and vitality of human civilization.” -Lynn Eden et al, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

“The difference between this dire pronouncement and those prior, is that the conditions in the past were reversible, and today they are not. Ignore the fine, uncut Hopium put forth toward the end of this piece asserting that solutions exist. There are no solutions. Transitioning away from Dinofuels at this late stage will probably make things worse, as the aerosols produced in the combustion of fossil fuels is thought to be offsetting the greenhouse gases warming effect up to 50 percent. Take those away, and it could lead to a even more pronounced temperature increase that would spell curtains for all carbon-based lifeforms residing here in relatively short order. We’re basically damned if we do, damned if we don’t.  Sadly, in all probability, as conditions worsen, The Doomsday Clock will continue to creep (or race, depending on the speed in increase of the multiple irreversible non-linear positive feedback loops in progress.) to midnight. Our fate is sealed folks. Enjoy the rest of your time in this, the most richly appointed death row. Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick….” -OSJ

By Bryan Kahn @ Climate Central:

The end of civilization as we know it just got a little closer. According to an update to the Doomsday Clock, the world is now three minutes from midnight and one of the big reasons is the failure to reduce greenhouse emissions even in the face of climate change.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists maintains the clock and resets the hands every few years based on existential threats to civilization. Created in 1947, the clock initially served as a warning about the threat of nuclear weapons, but climate change has started to mess with the hands of time in recent years. This is the fourth update to the clock that explicitly mentions climate change, though it’s an issue that has been on the Bulletin’s radar since 1961.

The clock was last updated in 2012, when the hands were set at five minutes to midnight. The reason the world is closer to doomsday now is the growing clarity about impacts of climate change, including some already occurring, and the failure to address it.

“The reason we feel greater sense of urgency on the climate issue is quantitatively, if you want to limit climate change to a certain magnitude, you’re only allowed to have a certain amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. We’re about halfway there,” Richard Somerville, a oceanographer at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and a board member of the Bulletin, which maintains the clock, said.

If emissions continue on their current trend, they’ll likely expend the carbon budget — a term used by scientists to describe how much carbon dioxide can be emitted while safely keeping the world from warming more than the 2°C (3.6°F) — in three decades.

Passing that threshold could lead to higher sea levels, an increased rate of ocean acidification, and rising global temperatures at rates that some scientists think could be beyond society’s ability to adapt. Beyond those direct impacts, climate change also poses a threat multiplier problem for the military by potentially increasing migration, destabilizing governments and increasing regional conflicts. The Pentagon already views climate change as an “immediate risk.”

Sivan Kartha, another Bulletin board member and senior scientist at Stockholm Environment Institute, said that international climate treaties have weakened in the 20 years of major negotiations with most emissions cuts going from binding to voluntary and emissions cuts failing to come close to staying within the carbon budget.

The only time the Doomsday Clock has been closer to midnight was in 1953, a year after hydrogen bombs were tested by the U.S. and Soviet Union in an escalating nuclear arms race. The clock also struck 11:57 p.m. in the Cold War chill of 1984. On the positive side, the clock was moved all the way back to 11:43 p.m. in the wake of the Cold War and the start of nuclear disarmament.

What’s keeping the clock from striking midnight now is that despite little to no action on climate change, solutions do exist. Namely, that means transitioning away from fossil fuels toward renewable energy.

“The IPCC concluded unequivocally that we can shift away from fossil fuels to low-carbon energy resources. Moreover, we can afford to do this,” Kartha said, noting it would shave just a fraction of a percent off project global economic growth, which “means instead of global GDP doubling in say 25 years, it would double in 26 years.”

Some countries have started that transition but Kartha said more efforts are needed and that the coming climate negotiations in Paris later this year could be a crucial turning point.

In the meantime, the clock’s ticking.

Scientific Analysis Find Rise In Rapid, Catastrophic, Animal Die-Offs Over The Past 75 Years

In Uncategorized on January 22, 2015 at 5:45 pm

Oldspeak: “Hmm. Curious. The oceans are dying. Scientists have found greater proportions of these die offs among birds, fish, and invertebrates, who just happen to spend most of their time in the oceans.  This data also correlates closely with the what many scientists call “The Great Acceleration”; the time around 1950 to present, characterized by relentless and ever-increasing levels of  human consumption and population and GDP growth. Coincidence? Probably not. All is intimately connected.” -OSJ

By Sarah Yang @ Science Daily:

An analysis of 727 mass die-offs of nearly 2,500 animal species from the past 70 years has found that such events are increasing among birds, fish and marine invertebrates. At the same time, the number of individuals killed appears to be decreasing for reptiles and amphibians, and unchanged for mammals.

Such mass mortality events occur when a large percentage of a population dies in a short time frame. While the die-offs are rare and fall short of extinction, they can pack a devastating punch, potentially killing more than 90 percent of a population in one shot. However, until this study, there had been no quantitative analysis of the patterns of mass mortality events among animals, the study authors noted.

“This is the first attempt to quantify patterns in the frequency, magnitude and cause of such mass kill events,” said study senior author Stephanie Carlson, an associate professor at the University of California, Berkeley’s Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management.

The study, published Monday, Jan. 12 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was led by researchers at UC Berkeley, the University of San Diego and Yale University.

The researchers reviewed incidents of mass kills documented in scientific literature. Although they came across some sporadic studies dating back to the 1800s, the analysis focused on the period from 1940 to the present. The researchers acknowledged that some of their findings may be due to an increase in the reporting of mass die-offs in recent decades. But they noted that even after accounting for some of this reporting bias, there was still an increase in mass die-offs for certain animals.

Overall, disease was the primary culprit, accounting for 26 percent of the mass die-offs. Direct effects tied to humans, such as environmental contamination, caused 19 percent of the mass kills. Biotoxicity triggered by events such as algae blooms accounted for a significant proportion of deaths, and processes directly influenced by climate — including weather extremes, thermal stress, oxygen stress or starvation — collectively contributed to about 25 percent of mass mortality events.

The most severe events were those with multiple causes, the study found.

Carlson, a fish ecologist, and her UC Berkeley graduate students had observed such die-offs in their studies of fish in California streams and estuaries, originally piquing their interest in the topic.

“The catastrophic nature of sudden, mass die-offs of animal populations inherently captures human attention,” said Carlson. “In our studies, we have come across mass kills of federal fish species during the summer drought season as small streams dry up. The majority of studies we reviewed were of fish. When oxygen levels are depressed in the water column, the impact can affect a variety of species.”

The study found that the number of mass mortality events has been increasing by about one event per year over the 70 years the study covered.

“While this might not seem like much, one additional mass mortality event per year over 70 years translates into a considerable increase in the number of these events being reported each year,” said study co-lead author Adam Siepielski, an assistant professor of biology at the University of San Diego. “Going from one event to 70 each year is a substantial increase, especially given the increased magnitudes of mass mortality events for some of these organisms.

This study suggests that in addition to monitoring physical changes such as changes in temperature and precipitation patterns, it is important to document the biological response to regional and global environmental change. The researchers highlighted ways to improve documentation of such events in the future, including the possible use of citizen science to record mass mortality events in real time.

“The initial patterns are a bit surprising, in terms of the documented changes to frequencies of occurrences, magnitudes of each event and the causes of mass mortality,” said study co-lead author Samuel Fey, a postdoctoral fellow in ecology and evolutionary biology at Yale. “Yet these data show that we have a lot of room to improve how we document and study these types of rare events.”

Funding from the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Science Foundation helped support this research.


Extinction Rate Rivals That of Dinosaurs

In Uncategorized on December 31, 2014 at 1:00 am

Polar bears, already an endangered species, are seeing their numbers continue to drop as Arctic sea ice continues its dramatic decline due to climate disruption.

Oldspeak: For several thousand years, we have been obsessed with a false humility – on the one hand, putting ourselves down as mere ‘creatures’ who came into this world by the whim of God of the fluke of blind forces, and on the other, conceiving ourselves separate personal egos fighting to control the physical world. We have lacked the real humility of recognizing that we are members of the biosphere, the “harmony of contained conflicts” in which we cannot exist at all without the cooperation of plants, insects, fish, cattle and bacteria. In the same measure, we have lacked the proper self-respect of recognizing that I, the individual organism, am a structure of such fabulous ingenuity that it calls the whole universe into being. In the act of putting everything at a distance so as to describe and control it, we have orphaned ourselves from the surrounding world and from our own bodies – leaving “I” as a discontented and alienated spook, anxious, guilty, unrelated and alone.” –Alan Watts, “The Book”

“Obsession with illusions has brought us to this point. Earth’s 6th mass extinction. Control, domination insignificance, separation, insecurity, competition, conflict, civilization, progress, success, personalization- all illusory constructs that imprison and confound us. Our obsessions with the unreal, have led us to led us to unknow basic and fundamental truths. All is Self. All is One.  When you tug on a single thing in the Universe, you find it’s attached to everything else. Every tiny atom of this vast universe is a creative manifestation of cosmic consciousness. The world of duality emanates from oneness and to oneness returns. What is joined separates and comes together again. Our Great Mother is constantly speaking to us, and we are ignoring her voice. Our willful ignorance of these truths have driven the extractive and acquisitive madness that animates this ‘civilization’. Abrupt climate change is underway and shows no signs of slowing.  Dahr Jamail’s latest dispatch details the ever intensifying consequences of our suicidal actions. Unsurprisingly, the news continues to go from bad to worse.” -OSJ

By Dahr Jamail @ Truthout:

“The supreme reality of our time is … the vulnerability of our planet.”
– John F. Kennedy

Recent studies show that current animal extinction rates from anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) now rival the extinction that annihilated the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

“If that rate continues unchanged, the earth’s sixth mass extinction is a certainty,” said Anthony Barnosky, a biology professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

Certainly there are no signs of our planetary ACD trajectory changing, aside from continuing to ramp up further into abrupt runaway change.

In fact, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature recently updated its authoritative Red List to include more than 22,000 species on the list of the world’s most threatened animals. Species like the Pacific bluefin tuna and the American eel are now on the Red List.

NASA data showed that this October was the globe’s warmest on record, and for the third month in a row, global temperatures broke records, which kept 2014 on track to become the hottest year ever recorded. Bear in mind that the 10 warmest years ever recorded have all occurred since 1998. Recent data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration confirmed that the first 10 months of 2014 were the hottest since record keeping began.

November’s record-breaking snowfall in New York is just a precursor of things to come as runaway ACD continues to intensify, and as studies reveal that these types of extreme weather events are now part of a long-term pattern that is the new normal.

The World Bank, not exactly a bastion of environmentalism, released a new report that claims that without dramatic action, the planet will experience at least 4 degrees Celsius warming by the time current teenagers turn 80.

Even though the planet is currently only .85 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial baseline temperatures, the effects of ACD continue to be dramatic.

New data from the American Geophysical Union show that a West Antarctic ice sheet that is approximately the size of Texas is melting three times faster than previously believed. This means that the area’s melt rate has tripled in just the last decade and is losing the amount of ice equivalent to Mount Everest every other year.

Ocean researchers recently announced that people living in the United States could expect spring to arrive earlier and fall to arrive later, the new normal since ocean temperatures in the northeastern Atlantic are increasing.

The International Energy Agency’s 2014 World Energy Outlook was released recently, and said that at the current rate of emissions, the world has to cease all carbon emissions by 2040 in order to stay under the arbitrary 2-degree Celsius political target of temperature rise. It is worth noting that James Hansen has come out and said that even a 1-degree Celsius temperature increase above the pre-industrial baseline would have disastrous consequences.

Is it already too late to turn things around?

A recent Google analysis seems to think so: “So our best-case scenario, which was based on our most optimistic forecasts for renewable energy, would still result in severe climate change, with all its dire consequences: shifting climatic zones, freshwater shortages, eroding coasts, and ocean acidification, among others.”

To get an idea of how rapidly we’ve warmed the planet, have a look at this short NASA tracking map.

This month’s survey of the planet and ACD-related studies, once again, shows clearly how things are only continuing to speed up and intensify.


A recent Austrian report on ACD showed that the country’s temperatures have already risen twice as fast as the global average since 1880, causing less snow, shorter ski seasons, and more landslides and forest fires. It also is causing villages to move, ski lifts to be dismantled, and people to have to find ways to adapt to their new environments.

In Africa, Senegal has been struggling to hold off the Sahara desert, but that battle is clearly not a sustainable one given the water crisis in the area.

Canberra, Australia, is experiencing a dramatic change due to ACD, as a series of dramatic environmental consequences like massive numbers of wasps, growing lake algae, and dramatically increasing wildfires are projected to become the new norm for the area.

The recent Ebola scare in the United States is something that could become more common, thanks to ACD. Other tropical diseases, spread by insects and not humans, now pose a growing threat to the United States.

Scientists along the West Coast of the United States gravely monitored a large-scale die-off of small seabirds, whose breeding grounds included a colony in the Farallon Islands off the coast of San Francisco. Dramatic increases in ocean temperatures and feeding conditions, both due to ACD, are among the reasons being investigated as the cause.

A recent study published in Ecological Applications showed a stunning decline in the number of polar bears, and illustrated how ACD impacts are rapidly pushing the bears toward extinction. The study said that polar bear populations in eastern Alaska and western Canada have declined by 40 percent recently.

Of this, the Center for Biological Diversity’s Sarah Uhlemann said, “Global warming has put Alaska’s polar bears in a deadly downward spiral. It’s happening now, it’s killing polar bears now, and if we don’t act now, we will lose polar bears in Alaska.” The population of polar bears in the Southern Beaufort Sea area has now dropped to only 900 bears, which is a severe decline from the 2006 estimate, which logged more than 1,500.

In addition, only two out of 80 polar bear cubs tracked by the study team between 2004 and 2007 had survived, when normally about half of the cubs survive.

Lastly in this section, ACD is in the process of stripping away the identity of Glacier National Park in Montana. One hundred years ago, there were 150 ice sheets in the park, and today that number is down to 25. Within 30 years, there will likely be none.


Water continues to amplify the impacts of runaway ACD across the globe.

In California, where record-setting drought continues despite some recent rains, three years on, farmers and ranchers have to sell off large portions of their herds, work longer hours and take other jobs. This is particularly worrisome, given that half of all the fresh food eaten in the United States is produced in California.

In the mountains above the Central Valley in California, ski areas up and down the Sierra Nevada have less snow than ever, and are having to ramp up human-made snow to remain open. Their futures appear bleak indeed.

It’s well known now, and has been for quite some time, that California is literally running out of water, and the massive infrastructure changes needed to cope with this fact haven’t even begun to be constructed.

The ongoing record drought in the southwestern United States has revealed shocking changes along the Colorado River, which has further raised alarms about the growing lack of water across the region, which climate models predict will become increasingly water-starved as we move into the future.

The drought in Brazil is bad enough that Sao Paulo, the megacity of 20 million that is being wracked by relentless water shortages, has only two months of guaranteed water supply remaining, according to local officials. The city might have to “get water from mud” if the drought persists.

Meanwhile up in the Andes, the high-altitude glaciers in Ecuador, Bolivia, Columbia and Peru are melting at breakneck speed, causing scientists to worry that many of them will disappear long before anything can be done to save them. This phenomenon also threatens the freshwater supplies of many cities in these countries.

Across the Atlantic and on the other end of the water spectrum that is becoming increasingly amplified by ACD, Britain, reeling from the first onslaught of floods and winter storms, was warned it could face one of the wettest winters in three decades.

In November, a mega-snowstorm dumped a years’ worth of snow in a four-day period in New York, broke records and left at least 13 people dead.

Also in that region of the United States, ice began forming on the Great Lakes faster this year than ever before, as Lake Superior saw areas freezing on November 15, according to Great Lakes Environmental Research data.

Rising sea levels continue to take their toll.

In the United States, a recent estimate revealed that approximately $1.4 trillion worth of coastal property could be threatened by 2100.

The coastal village of Shishmaref, Alaska, faces an existential threat, as the 600 residents on the sinking barrier island are watching their land erode into the Chukchi Sea while the federal government has yet to produce a new location for them to relocate.

Off the western coast of Canada, a recent report showed that record-breaking temperatures in the North Pacific Ocean are threatening marine species there.

Further south along the coast, California’s drought now threatens to extinguish the last of the Muir Woods coho salmon that typically make their way from the ocean to spawn in a freshwater creek through the redwoods near San Francisco, according to state officials.

On the East Coast of the United States, a Maine state commission is urging action toward increasing research and monitoring the risk of increasingly acidic ocean waters harming the state’s commercial fisheries and lobsters, in addition to urging action toward reducing local pollution that is impacting the chemistry of the water.

As sea levels continue to rise globally, major river deltas where more than 500 million people live “could be drowned,” according to a new study.

Lastly in this section, the Republic of Kiribati, the most remote inhabited location on the planet, has become the first country on the planet to surrender to ACD. It will no longer exist by 2050, at the very latest.


As temperatures continue to increase around the planet, warmer air is making it more difficult for airplanes to take off, according to a recent study. Higher temperatures cause the air to become less dense, which then reduces the lift force on airplane wings. This means tighter restrictions on luggage, as well as how many people are allowed on board planes.

In Brisbane, Australia, leaders at the recent G20 summit were met with a wake-up call from nature to pay attention to ACD, as temperatures reached 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) and a heat wave rolled through eastern Australia.

Australia has always struggled with hot weather, but the intensity and length of its heat waves are on the rise, enough so that the entire country is being forced to rethink how it lives, works and recreates.

Over Thanksgiving, California saw many new record high temperatures in San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Ana, Riverside, Escondido, Oakland, Santa Maria, Sandberg, Oceanside, Alpine and other cities and areas.

A new project is tracking the fate of ancient carbon in the Siberian Arctic, where the amount of carbon stored in Arctic permafrost is estimated to be more than double the amount that is currently in our atmosphere, and four times as much as is in all the forests on the planet. As Arctic temperatures continue to increase, the permafrost is thawing and its carbon, largely in the form of methane, is being released at ever increasing rates.

The Arctic methane situation is dire, and Truthout will soon be releasing an investigative report on the matter.


A recent study published in Nature, titled “Learning to coexist with wildfire,” urges us to find “a more sustainable coexistence with wildfire,” because “Without a more integrated framework, fire will never operate as a natural ecosystem process, and the impact on society will continue to grow.”

The report recommends “a more coordinated approach” geared toward risk management and “land-use planning” in an effort aimed at mitigating fire damage and minimizing property loss.

Denial and Reality

A recent report on theology and ACD revealed that half of the people living in the United States believed that ACD is a “sign of the apocalypse.” For these true believers then, the apocalypse is preferable to taking responsibility for the anthropogenic origins of climate disruption.

Another recent study, this one published in the journal Nature Climate Change, showed that the extreme weather events and record-breaking temperatures that have both become the new normal do little to nothing to convince people that ACD is real. The study also revealed that people’s political ideology has much more impact on their beliefs about ACD than do things like reality and facts.

Yet, despite the ongoing denial about ACD, even lifelong Republican George Shultz, Ronald Reagan’s secretary of state and Bechtel mogul, is embracing adaptation measures like using more solar and taking other measures to mitigate ACD.

Similarly, ex-BP chief Lord Browne, who is also one of the energy world’s most influential voices, recently said that ACD poses an “existential threat” to the existence of energy and mining companies, thereby acknowledging ADC’s reality.

A recently released map of the globe illustrates the results of surveys and polls from around the world since 2009, and shows what people think about ACD. For example, 84 percent of Argentinians believe ACD is real, and 83 percent of US citizens believe their country should be making efforts at mitigating ACD, “even if it comes with economic costs.”

The largest reinsurance firm in the world, Munich Re America, conducted a poll in the United States and found that 83 percent of Americans at least believe the climate is changing.

Another reality check comes from a new set of scientific studies that show how geoengineering, the plan of people like Bill Gates and other billionaires to use technological fixes to correct what technology caused in the first place, “could harm billions” of people around the world.

Even a geoengineering scientist recently admitted that he is “terrified” of his own technology.

Nevertheless, plans to take the planet further off the cliff continue apace, as actions to cool the earth using geoengineering are scheduled to begin in just two years, as reported in the New Scientist.

The World Bank recently admitted that some ACD impacts are now “unavoidable,” even if governments acted quickly to cut greenhouse gas emissions. In the aforementioned report, the group also said that earth is on track to reach an unavoidable 1.5-degree Celsius temperature increase by 2050, but could also reach a 4-degree Celsius increase by 2100.

This is a significant statement from a conservative entity like the World Bank, given that humans have never lived on a planet warmer than 3.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial baseline temperatures.

Meanwhile, the signs of runaway ACD abound.

Forecasters in Britain announced that this year could be the UK’s warmest for nearly 250 years, as measured by the world’s oldest record of temperature.

A study published in the October 2014 issue of Environmental Research Letters revealed that all of the previous estimates of sea-level rise are wrong, and instead of a maximum sea level rise of one meter by 2100, the maximum is nearly two meters rise by then. Incredibly, this study has been ignored by virtually all of the media, not just the corporate press.

The results of a very important study published in Environmental Research Letters show that carbon dioxide brings its peak heat impact within a decade of being emitted, with its effects then lingering for 100 years, or more, into the future.

“The way we talk about climate change is often, ‘oh, we’re really making emissions cuts for the sake of our children or grandchildren’ because the effects won’t be felt for decades,” said Katharine Ricke, a research fellow from Stanford who led the study. “But the implications are that there’s certainly benefits that can be reaped by people making decisions today.”

NASA recently produced an unsettling video that shows what the planetary atmosphere looks like on carbon dioxide, and also announced recently, that the Arctic sea ice extent is still well below normal, and continuing along its years-long downward trend (which is historically steep).

This is troubling for obvious reasons, but also because a study published in Nature in August 2014 showed how even small fluctuations in the sizes of ice sheets during the most recent ice age were enough to “trigger abrupt climate change.”

Abrupt climate change has been a key factor in all of the planet’s previous mass extinction events.

Are Humans Going Extinct?

In Uncategorized on December 4, 2014 at 4:00 pm

2014.12.1.Jamail.MainOldspeak: “Ok. One could say I’m a little fixated on Dahr Jamail right now and they’d probably be correct. He’s one of the few journalists committed to focusing on the only story that really matters anymore. Earth’s 6th Mass Extinction. Human activities brought it about. We’re bearing witness to it at this moment. Life extinguishing change is being made to the ecology at a rate  faster than in any of the 5 extinction events prior. It’s taken about 300 years to get to the point in this 6th extinction event that it took 80,000 YEARS TO GET TO in the Great Dying, the Permian mass extinction, which killed off 95% of life on Earth. This extinction event is happening exponentially faster than any other in the past. Scientific evidence from reputable sources is being published regularly, sounding increasingly dire alarms about the current situation. So far, 40 irreversible non-linear positive feedback loops have been triggered and are accelerating at an ever-increasing and probably underestimated rate.  With coal set to over take oil as the dominant energy source in 2017, it’s getting more and more clear that business as usual is status quo for industrial civilization. And that means, the jig is up in the next 15 to 20 years conservatively.  We are The Walking Dead. Zombie, life consuming economies animated by  Zombie people mindlessly, ravenously and insatiably consuming ever more natural capital unsustainably and creating more and more toxic effects as it does. The popular HBO show The Newsroom recently gave it to people straight, in a way that no actual mainstream news organization every could Here. Mr. Jamail talks to one of the most unpopular men around right now, Dr. Guy McPherson, a truthteller of the unavoidable reality to be, that is near term human extinction. Sobering, but much-needed reality is discussed.” -OSJ

By Dahr Jamail @ Truthout:

Some scientists, Guy McPherson included, fear that climate disruption is so serious, with so many self-reinforcing feedback loops already in play, that humans are in the process of causing our own extinction.

August, September and October were each the hottest months ever recorded, respectively. Including this year, which is on track to become the hottest year ever recorded, 13 of the hottest years on record have all occurred in the last 16 years.

Coal will likely overtake oil as the dominant energy source by 2017, and without a major shift away from coal, average global temperatures could rise by 6 degrees Celsius by 2050, leading to devastating climate change.

This is dramatically worse than even the most dire predictions from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which predicts at least a 5-degree Celsius increase by 2100 as its worst-case scenario, if business continues as usual with no major mitigation efforts.

Yet things continue growing worse faster than even the IPCC can keep up with.

Scientific American has said of the IPCC: “Across two decades and thousands of pages of reports, the world’s most authoritative voice on climate science has consistently understated the rate and intensity of climate change and the danger those impacts represent.”

And there is nothing to indicate, in the political or corporate world, that there will be anything like a major shift in policy aimed at dramatically mitigating runaway anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD).

Guy McPherson is a professor emeritus of natural resources, and ecology and evolutionary biology, with the University of Arizona, who has been studying ACD for nearly 30 years.

His blog Nature Bats Last has developed a large readership that continues to grow, and for six years McPherson has been traveling around the world giving lectures about a topic that, even for the initiated, is both shocking and controversial: the possibility of near-term human extinction due to runaway ACD.

As McPherson has told Truthout: “We’ve never been here as a species, and the implications are truly dire and profound for our species and the rest of the living planet.” He told Truthout that he believes that near-term human extinction could eventually result from losing the Arctic sea ice, which is one of the 40 self-reinforcing feedback loops of ACD. “A world without Arctic ice will be completely new to humans,” he said.

At the time of our interview less than one year ago, McPherson had identified 24 self-reinforcing positive feedback loops. Today that number has grown to 40.

A self-reinforcing feedback loop can also be thought of as a vicious circle, in that it accelerates the impacts of ACD. An example would be methane releases in the Arctic. Massive amounts of methane are currently locked in the permafrost, which is now melting rapidly. As the permafrost melts, methane, a greenhouse gas 100 times more potent than carbon dioxide on a short timescale, is released into the atmosphere, warming it, which in turn causes more permafrost to melt, and so on.

While McPherson’s perspective might sound way-out and like the stuff of science fiction, similar things have happened on this planet in the past. Fifty-five million years ago, a 5-degree Celsius rise in average global temperatures seems to have occurred in just 13 years, according to a study published in the October 2013 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. A report in the August 2013 issue of Science revealed that in the near term, earth’s climate will change 10 times faster than during any other moment in the last 65 million years.

Prior to that, the Permian mass extinction that occurred 250 million years ago, also known as “The Great Dying,” was triggered by a massive lava flow in an area of Siberia that led to an increase in global temperatures of 6 degrees Celsius. That, in turn, caused the melting of frozen methane deposits under the seas. Released into the atmosphere, those gases caused temperatures to skyrocket further. All of this occurred over a period of approximately 80,000 years. The change in climate is thought to be the key to what caused the extinction of most species on the planet. In that extinction episode, it is estimated that 95 percent of all species were wiped out.

Today’s current scientific and observable evidence strongly suggests we are in the midst of the same process – only this time it is anthropogenic, and happening exponentially faster than the Permian mass extinction did.

We are likely to begin seeing periods of an ice-free Arctic by as soon as this coming summer, or the summer of 2016 at the latest.

Once the summer ice begins melting, methane releases will worsen dramatically.

We are currently in the midst of what most scientists consider the sixth mass extinction in planetary history, with between 150 and 200 species going extinct daily – a pace 1,000 times greater than the “natural” or “background” extinction rate. Our current extinction event is already greatly exceeding the speed, and might eventually even exceed the intensity, of the Permian mass extinction event. The difference is that ours is human caused, isn’t going to take 80,000 years, has so far lasted just a few centuries and is now gaining speed in a nonlinear fashion.

Is it possible that, on top of the vast quantities of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels that continue to enter the atmosphere in record amounts yearly, an increased release of methane could signal the beginning of the sort of process that led to the Great Dying? Some scientists, McPherson included, fear that the situation is already so serious and so many self-reinforcing feedback loops are already in play that we are in the process of causing our own extinction. Worse yet, some are convinced that it could happen far more quickly than generally believed possible – even in the course of just the next few decades.

Truthout caught up with McPherson at the Earth at Risk conference in San Francisco recently to ask him about his prediction of human extinction, and what that means for our lives today.

Dahr Jamail: What are some of the current signs and reports you’re seeing that are disconcerting, and really give you pause?

Guy McPherson: I’ve been traveling, so I’m out of date for the last 10 days. But starting with the snowstorm in Buffalo, New York, that was the biggest snowstorm ever recorded in Buffalo, at 6 feet 4 inches in 24 hours. It’s the largest one ever recorded in the United States.

Australia, meanwhile, is on fire. I just came back from New Zealand, and spring had just turned there because it’s the Southern Hemisphere. The whole time I was there people were commenting on how hot it was, and “how far into summer we already are,” and it was early to mid-spring when I was there.

So there’s all kinds of observational evidence.

We triggered another self-reinforcing feedback loop, number 40, just about two weeks ago; then just a week ago there was a [scientific] paper that came out indicating that for every 1-degree temperature rise, there is 7 percent more lightning strikes. So that contributes to a previously existing self-reinforcing feedback loop, that of fires, especially in the Northern Hemisphere, and especially in the boreal forests. So, as it gets warmer and drier, there are more and bigger fires, and that kicks more carbon into the atmosphere, which of course contributes to ongoing, accelerating climate disruption.

So lightning is yet another piece of that. As there is more moisture in the atmosphere and more heat going into the atmosphere and warming the planet, we have more lightning. The whole atmosphere becomes more dynamic. So, those are things that come to mind.

From your analysis, how long do you think humanity has before extinction occurs?

That’s such a hard question, and we are such a clever species. It’s clear that abrupt climate change is underway. Methane has gone exponential in the atmosphere. Paul Beckwith, climate scientist at University of Ottawa, indicates we could experience a 6-degree Celsius temperature rise in the span of a decade. He thinks we’ll survive that. I can’t imagine how that could be. He’s a laser physicist and engineer, so I think he doesn’t understand biology and requisite habitat that we need to survive.

So it’s difficult for me to imagine a scenario where we’ll survive even a 4-degree Celsius [above pre-industrial baseline] temperature rise, and we’ll be there in the very near future, like by 2030, plus or minus. So it’s hard for me to imagine we make it into the 2030s as a species.

But when I deliver public presentations I try not to focus on any particular date; I just try to remind people that they are mortal. That birth is lethal, and that we don’t have long on this planet even if we live to be 100, so we might want to pursue what we love, instead of pursuing the next dollar.

A more micro-look from that question – what do you see happening in the US, if Beckwith and other scientists who are predicting that rapid a rise of temperatures in such a short time frame are correct?

The interior of continents heats at least twice as fast as the global average. So a 6-degree Celsius rise in the global average means at least 12 degrees Celsius in the interior of continents – that means no question there is no habitat for humans in the interior. So you would have to be in a maritime environment.

I think even before we get to 6 degrees Celsius above baseline, we lose all habitats. We lose all or nearly all the phytoplankton in the oceans, which are in serious decline already as the result of an increasingly acidified ocean environment. It’s difficult for me to imagine a situation in which plants, even land plants survive, because they can’t get up and move. So without plants there is no habitat.

At a 6-degree Celsius temperature rise in the span of decades, there’s no way for evolution by natural selection to keep up with that. Already, climate change – which at this point has been pretty slow and what we would call linear change – already climate change is outpacing evolution by natural selection by at least a factor of 10,000, so I don’t see any way the planet is going to keep up.

We’re clever. We’ll be able to move around. And if somebody has a bunch of food stored they might be able to persist on that for awhile, but climate change leads to social breakdown, or maybe social breakdown contributes further to climate change . . . in any event, when we stop putting sulfates into the atmosphere, even at the level of the US or Europe or China, that’s going to cause a very rapid global average increase in planetary temperature. According to journal literature, a reduction of 35 to 80 percent in sulfates causes a 1-degree Celsius temperature rise. And in a matter of days, maybe weeks. So when the system comes down, that means we’re above the ridiculous, politically constructed target of 2 degrees Celsius, which has never been a scientific target despite what Michael Mann and other allegedly premier climate scientists say. One degree Celsius has been a scientific target since the UN group on measured greenhouse gases established that as a scientific target in 1990.

Well, it gets worse. According to David Spratt, in a presentation delivered recently, 1 degree Celsius was ridiculous, .8 degrees Celsius apparently was a more reasonable target, and by his estimation .5 degrees Celsius was the Rubicon we should not have crossed. Well, we crossed that Rubicon a long time ago, half a century ago, and he points out that we’ve passed all these tipping points, all these self-reinforcing feedback loops, and that 1 degree is nonsense, and that half a degree is more like it, and that’s in the rearview mirror, and has been for a long time.

What would you say to young couples now who are having children, or are trying to get pregnant?

We have means of preventing that. [McPherson smiles and pauses]

I try to encourage people to pursue their passion, to do what they love, and apparently some people love having children.

Obviously I think that’s a terrible strategy, given how little time we have on this planet as a species, but who am I to interrupt somebody else’s reproductive rights?

So if you love having children, have children and love them, and no matter how long their lives are, try to make them be joyous years. I think that goes for all of us, and if that means you want to bring children into the world, who am I to stop you from pursuing what you love? That’s what I try to encourage people to do.

Given that we’ve already gone over the cliff, what is our social and spiritual responsibility to ourselves, and to one another, and to the planet, as our extinction approaches?

I think our social responsibility is to live here, now, and contribute to joyous lives for those around us. It’s as if we’re in a hospice situation. I think we should be serving as witnesses to our own demise, as well as to the demise of the many other species we are driving to extinction.

In addition, I believe we have an obligation to not keep making things worse for every other species on the planet. It appears that we’ve thrown ourselves into the abyss, but we don’t need to drag every other species on the planet down with us.

So that’s why I so much appreciate what is going on here, at Earth at Risk, because it keeps the focus on species beyond ours, and the focus on cultures and societies beyond ours. We think it’s all about us, whatever “us” is, and from a cosmological perspective our species just showed up really quite recently, and yet we think it’s all about us.

So maybe we could, for a change, make it not about us, for starters.

Do you feel that the reality of how far along we are with ACD, the reality that you’ve been talking about for years now, is beginning to enter mainstream consciousness?

In a very limited way. Every now and then I see an article or a report in the mainstream media indicating that we may be ahead of some tipping point. So you see reference to the western Antarctic ice shelf falling into the ocean in the not so distant future. You see something about Greenland and the ice melting there very quickly.

But we don’t have a 24-hour news cycle; we have a 24-second news cycle. So those things come and go very quickly and then boom, we are back on the Kardashians again; we’re back on some aspect of celebrity culture.

And so it’s hard to get this culture focused in any meaningful way on the topics that matter for any period of time.

Why is the discussion about ACD not louder and more widespread? It should be the central conversation we’re all having . . . the entire planet should be basically saying, “What in the hell are we going to do?” and acting on those questions . . . but it isn’t. Why not?

It’s a corporate media. There are a handful of corporations that control more than 90 percent of the media in the country, and to only a slightly lesser extent, the world. So we have a corporate media, and we have a corporate government, and what Mussolini defined as fascism.

There’s no financial benefit to pointing out that people’s lives are short. Instead, there’s financial benefit to selling products that people don’t need, can’t afford and just contribute to further lining the pockets of the CEOs of the corporations. So I think it all comes down to the corporations exerting such profoundly strong control over the messages we are receiving everyday.

Your prediction of near-term extinction is, needless to say, controversial to most people. What do you say to people who call you extreme for talking about this?

I’m just reporting the results from other scientists. Nearly all of these results are published in established literature. I don’t think anybody is taking issue with NASA or Nature, or Science, or the Proceedings of National Sciences . . . the others I report are reasonably well-known and come from legitimate sources like NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration], other NASA sources etc. . . . I’m not making this information up. I’m just connecting a couple of dots, and it’s something many people have difficulty with.

For you, what now and why bother? What keeps you going?

I can’t help myself. When I was 6 years old I came home with a Dick and Jane primer, showed it to my 4-year-old sister, pointed to a page, [and] said, “What’s that?” She said, “That’s a dog,” and in total disgust I said, “No, that’s Spot.” I was already outraged because she didn’t know the answer. I turned the page and said, “What’s that?” She said, “That’s a cat.” In a disgusted tone of voice I said, “No, it’s Puff!” I was teaching when I was 6. It’s not what I do; it’s who I am. I can’t seem to help myself.

So serving as a witness, giving this information out, connecting ways that the mainstream media have given up on seems to be what is within me.

And what’s next is moving the next step beyond uber-geek, left-brain science guy presenting the information and reminding people that their lives are short, and instead moving into the heart space, or what some people call the spiritual space of how do we deal with this? What do we do now? How do I act as a human being? What kind of my humanity comes up as a reminder of the fact that our lives are short? Maybe we ought not focus on materialism at the expense of everything else.

So that’s what’s next. And that’s what’s been going on for the last several months, and I’m trying to refine and hone that message and get it out more broadly, and engage with more allies to get that message out, because it’s the most important message left to our species.

Have you seen, through your work, a shift from your going out and presenting all the facts and showing people where we are as a species, to more into what you just described?

Yes, absolutely. And there are a couple of things that are going on there. One, when I started delivering this information, I was the medical doctor with poor bedside manner.

So I would show up in the exam room, looking through my charts, barely making eye contact with the patient, tell them, “It looks like you have six weeks to live; be sure to pay the receptionist on your way out, and I’ve got a golf game to catch, so see you next week, maybe, if you’re still alive then.” And then I’d just leave.

So that was me when I’d deliver a presentation. And people pointed out to me along the way that that’s really, really inappropriate behavior, and for this left-brained science guy that was a difficult pill for me to swallow, but I see that now.

And it was very helpful that a little less than a year ago I participated in a grief recovery workshop, and I realized that what I was experiencing was grief, and specifically anticipatory grief. So the next step is to try to scale up the notion of anticipatory grief, and have it reach more people as well as pointing out that this is what is. That we can’t be stuck any more in what “should be,” we can’t be bogged down by the world of “should.”

Instead, as Byron Katie points out in her latest book, we need to love what “is.” And what “is” is reality. So let’s embrace that, and love this living planet, even as we cause it to become a lot less lively. And experience and bring moments of joy to those around us.