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

Posts Tagged ‘“Catastrophe Of Estrangement”’

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.

The Fire Next Time: Record-Breaking Wildfires, Greenland Melting and Earth’s Hottest Month Ever

In Uncategorized on September 8, 2015 at 8:41 pm
A massive wall of wildfire smoke, blowing in from record-breaking fires in Eastern Washington, covers Puget Sound and Seattle. (Photo: Dahr Jamail)

A massive wall of wildfire smoke, blowing in from record-breaking fires in eastern Washington State, covers Puget Sound and Seattle. (Photo: Dahr Jamail)

Oldspeak: “Life is tragic simply because the earth turns and the sun inexorably rises and sets, and one day, for each of us, the sun will go down for the last, last time. Perhaps the whole root of our trouble, the human trouble, is that we will sacrifice all the beauty of our lives, will imprison ourselves in totems, taboos, crosses, blood sacrifices, steeples, mosques, races, armies, flags, nations, in order to deny the fact of death, the only fact we have. It seems to me that one ought to rejoice in the fact of death–ought to decide, indeed, to earn one’s death by confronting with passion the conundrum of life. One is responsible for life: It is the small beacon in that terrifying darkness from which we come and to which we shall return….Do I really want to be integrated into a burning house?” -James Baldwin, “The Fire Next Time” 1963

“Behold! In an utterly synthetic, sanitized & death-phobic culture, the sheer length and breadth of madness wrought to avoid death, prolong life, enhance comfort, improve convenience and make life easy for humans;  has in fact had the unfortunate consequence of bringing about conditions precipitating a “Great Dying”. A Dying like none other experienced on Earth, in a mere instant on a geologic time-scale.  Sacrificing the beauty of our lives for concepts like “things”, politics, economies, ideologies & sense pleasures all to ignore the only immutable fact of life; that our love of life is nestled in a cradle of death. Dahr Jamail is back with his latest dispatch, bearing witness to the myriad of death, destruction and disintegration fear fueled human activity caused. As per usual, the news is getting shittier as time passes.  Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick… ” -OSJ

Written By Dahr Jamail @ Truthout:

When I go up into the mountains, I’m used to being afforded magnificent views of alpine meadows filled with wildflowers, crystal-clear mountain streams, glaciers tucked under the shoulders of high valleys, stratified ridges arcing into the sky, and views so far into the distance one can sense the curvature of earth.

But on August 22, as I carefully climbed my way toward one of the high summits of Eastern Olympic National Park, the solace of the mountains eluded me due to an ominous sign. The view east – toward what has now officially become the largest complex of wildfires in history for Washington State, where over one-quarter million acres have burned – was dominated by a large, greyish-white plume of smoke that stretched as far north and south as I could see.

At first it appeared as a large storm cloud layer, which was confusing given that the weather-folk had called for a stable high-pressure ridge over western Washington through the weekend. But as I continued through the morning, the large white wall neared and slowly began enveloping the entire eastern mountains of the Olympics, and my eyes began to burn as I smelled the smoke.

By the time I reached the summit of my climb, the view south was already obscured by the smoke as it began to fully infiltrate Olympic National Park.

Looking south from high up in the Eastern portion of Olympic National Park, wildfire smoke begins making its way into the park. (Photo: Dahr Jamail)

Looking south from high up in the eastern portion of Olympic National Park, wildfire smoke begins making its way into the park. (Photo: Dahr Jamail)

John Muir once wrote, “I must break away and get into the mountains to learn the news.” Today, given we are well along into abrupt anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD), Muir’s quote has taken on an entirely new meaning, as the convulsions wracking the planet are starkly clear when we venture out into nature.

Back home after my climb, the wildfires were all over the news. Several firefighters had died recently while battling the blazes in eastern Washington, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data show how over half the entire country was covered in wildfire smoke generated by literally hundreds of fires, and the smoke was bad enough in Seattle to have triggered health alerts.

The US is now officially in the worst wildfire season in its history, as almost 7.5 million acres across the country have burned up since spring.

Articles about ACD’s impacts are now being published in more mainstream outlets, carrying titles that include verbiage like “the point of no return,” and it is high time for that, given what we are witnessing.

A recently published study by the UK-US Taskforce on Extreme Weather and Global Food System Reliance revealed that “major shocks” to worldwide food production will become at least three times more likely within the next 25 years due to increasingly extreme weather events generated by ACD. One of the coauthors of the report warned of a “very frightening” future due to the synthesis of ACD and food demands from a constantly growing global population.

Meanwhile, July officially became the hottest month ever recorded on the planet, setting 2015 on course to easily become the hottest year ever recorded.

This month’s dispatch is replete with evidence of our growing crisis, including record-breaking amounts of ice being released from Greenland, more species under threat of extinction, and millions of acres of the planet burning up in wildfires across North America alone.

Earth

A trove of papers recently released in the journal Science have warned that the planet’s forests are all under major threat of being annihilated, due to the ever-expanding human footprint, coupled with ACD. The introduction to the studies reads: “These papers document how humans have fundamentally altered forests across the globe and warn of potential broad-scale future declines in forest health, given increased demand for land and forest products combined with rapid climate change.”

Speaking of which, another recent report, this one coming from the Center for Global Development, showed that the planet is on a trajectory to lose an amount of tropical forest land equivalent to the size of India by 2050.

Meanwhile, geologists with the US Geological Survey and researchers from the University of Vermont recently showed that Washington DC is, quite literally, sinking into the sea. “It’s ironic that the nation’s capital – the place least responsive to the dangers of climate change – is sitting in one of the worst spots it could be,” senior author of the paper, Paul Bierman, said. “Will the Congress just sit there with their feet getting ever wetter?”

At the moment, the answer to his question is obvious: The lawmakers that frequent our capital city are making no bold moves to address that city’s flooded future.

Food production, as aforementioned, is being dramatically undermined by ACD. In Nigeria, the country’s ability to feed itself is rapidly diminishing due to higher temperatures and shifting rainfall patterns. At least half the farmers there had been unable to even plant their crops at the time of this writing.

Animal species continue to bear the brunt of ACD all over the globe as well.

A recent study showed that in the UK, ACD is generating severe droughts that have placed several species of butterflies there at risk of extinction.

Another report showed how a disease spreading rapidly across the planet’s tadpole populations is now threatening the global frog population. Scientists who authored the report warn that this is further evidence of the sixth great extinction event the earth is now experiencing.

Another dismaying development: The ever-shrinking area of sea ice is deleteriously impacting the Arctic’s walrus population. This season could see another dramatic beaching event like that of last summer, in which 35,000 walruses dragged themselves out of the sea and onto a beach due to lack of sea ice.

Meanwhile, the ongoing drought in California has caused an “emergency situation” for trees in that state, as lack of water is causing unprecedented die-offs. The drought there is also wiping out several of the native fish populations, of which many are expected to disappear within the next two years if the drought persists.

Lastly in this section, unprecedented heat coupled with an intense drought has caused “glacial outbursts” on Washington State’s Mount Rainier. “Outbursts” occur when large pools of ice-melt form within the glaciers, then plunge from within the glacier, sending torrents of silt-filled water, boulders and trees down the slopes of the mountain, wiping out anything in its path.

While these outbursts have happened periodically throughout history, they are expected to increase in both frequency and severity as ACD progresses.

Water

As usual, circumstances on the water front continue to worsen around the planet.

In the Pacific Northwestern region of the US, over a quarter million sockeye salmon heading up the Columbia River have either died or are in the process of dying due to warmer water temperatures. Biologists warn that at least half of this year’s returning fish will be wiped out, and ultimately as much as 80 percent of the total fish population could perish. Both Oregon and Washington states have already instituted closures of sport fishing due to the warmer waters and drought conditions persisting in both states.

In the Eastern Pacific Ocean, a giant bloom of toxic algae that is a threat to the health of both ocean species and humans alike spans from southern California all the way up to Alaska. Researchers are linking the size and intensity of the bloom to ACD. The bloom is already killing off sea lions that inhabit the coast and is still not showing signs of going away. Researchers said it was the largest bloom they had ever seen.

A report showed how ACD is in the process of rapidly reversing a natural phenomenon of 1,800 years of ocean cooling, while another study revealed that ocean acidification will continue and likely worsen, even if carbon sequestration and cleanup efforts were to begin in an immediate and dramatic fashion.

Back on land, droughts around the globe continue to make headlines.

One in Puerto Rico, that continues to worsen, has caused that country’s government to extend its dramatic water rationing measures, which have now been ongoing for weeks.

A study published in Geophysical Research Letters unequivocally linked California’s severe drought to ACD, saying that ACD has already “substantially increased” both the frequency and intensity of future droughts.

More news around the California drought emerged, showing that the river that runs through San Jose, the 10th largest city in the US, has dried up completely, severely harming fish and wildlife dependent on the water for their survival.

NASA released findings showing that California’s Central Valley, where the bulk of all the farming in the state takes place, is literally sinking, due to how much groundwater is being drawn out to compensate for the drought conditions. It is yet another destructive feedback loop: ACD has caused the drought to be far more severe than normal, which has caused humans to over-pump groundwater, leading to the sinking of the land.

The world’s glaciers are in peril. A disturbing report has shown that they have shrunk to their lowest levels ever witnessed in the history of record-keeping. They are melting at an accelerating rate – two to three times faster than the 20th century average melt rate.

As if to punctuate the findings of the report, the world’s fastest-melting glaciers, located in Greenland, recently lost the largest amount of ice on record in just a 48-hour period.

As a result of the incredible melting rates of glaciers, snowpack and ice fields around the globe, sea levels are now rising faster than ever.

Thus, as recently released research shows, global communities and cities located on river deltas – which includes over a quarter of a billion people – are at risk and will have to relocate.

Fire

Given the extensive record-breaking drought that has afflicted most of the western US, the fact that this summer’s fire season came in with a roar came as little surprise. Hardly halfway through the summer, fires across California, Washington, Colorado and in Glacier National Park in Montana were making headlines.

By early August, nearly 10,000 firefighters in California alone were battling at least 20 wildfires that had already forced more than 13,000  people to evacuate their homes.

Shortly thereafter, thousands of wildfires were raging across drought-plagued California, and before the middle of the month, a staggering 300,000 new acres were burning each day up in Alaska, where fires had scorched over 6 million acres thus far in the year, and hundreds of fires continued to burn. That makes this year already the second-largest wildfire season in Alaska’s history, with more of the summer remaining.

Reports have emerged warning of the impact of the fires upon Alaska’s permafrost: They have removed millions of acres of the tundra and forest that previously protected the frozen ground.

In early August, the US Forest Service announced that for the first time in the history of that department, it needed to spend over half of its entire budget on fighting wildfires.

Despite this, given the record-breaking drought conditions across the west, large numbers of the fires were left to burn out of control, due to high winds, dry conditions, and lack of fire-fighting capabilities and resources.

Air

In case anyone had any doubt about how hot the planet is already becoming, the Iranian city of Bandar Mahshahr experienced a heat index of 165 degrees in August, nearly setting a world record for heat index measurements, which factor in humidity along with temperature.

In July, incredibly hot temperatures in Tajikistan caused a rapid melting of glaciers, which triggered flooding and mudslides that generated nearly 1,000 ACD refugees.

Meanwhile, across the Middle East in August, more than 20 people died and nearly 100 had to be hospitalized due to incinerating heat that baked the region, along with intense humidity levels. Basra, Iraq, saw 123 degrees, and the Iraqi government had to instate a four-day “holiday” so people wouldn’t feel obliged to work in the stifling heat.

Lastly in this section, a recent report stated that Texas will likely see a dramatic escalation in heat-related deaths and coastal extreme storm-related losses in the upcoming decades due to escalating ACD impacts.

Denial and Reality

There is never a dull moment in the “Denial and Reality” section.

Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton’s stated plan to address abrupt ACD, which amounts to federal subsidies for solar panels, was immediately labeled as “silly” in early August, just after Clinton’s plan was announced, by leading climate scientist James Hansen, who headed NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies for more than three decades.

“You cannot solve the problem without a fundamental change, and that means you have to make the price of fossil fuels honest, “Hansen said of her plan. “Subsidizing solar panels is not going to solve the problem.”

During a recent forum, Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz went on the record expressing full-on denial of ACD, saying that the debate about ACD was a “device” used by liberals to appeal to “environmentalist billionaires and their campaign donations.”

On another front, builders in San Francisco are moving forward with plans to construct major bay-front developments of office space and homes worth more than $21 billion, in areas that are extremely susceptible to flooding – despite dire warnings of imminent sea-level rise.

On the bad news front for the deniers, however, a recent study showed there is absolutely no link between sunspot activity and ACD … a fabricated argument the deniers enjoy trotting out to try to “disprove” reality.

More bad news for the deniers comes, once again, from the Pope, who set up an annual Catholic Church “day of care” for the environment. The Pope said the day would be a chance for the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics to “thank God for the wonderful handiwork which he has entrusted to our care, and to implore his help for the protection of creation as well as his pardon for the sins committed against the world in which we live.”

And Catholics aren’t the only faith leaders working to do something to address ACD.

Islamic religious and environmental leaders from around the world recently issued a call to rich countries, along with those that are oil producers, to end all fossil fuel use by 2050 and to begin rapidly ramping up the institution and use of renewable energy sources.

The Islamic leadership, which issued “The Islamic Climate Declaration,” said the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims have “a religious duty to fight climate change.”

The final blow to ACD deniers in this month’s dispatch comes from none other than the US Department of Defense, which issued a report to Congress that said that ACD poses a “present security threat” that is not only a “long-term risk,” but poses immediate short-term threats as well.

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.

“The source of half the World’s oxygen is in major peril.” The New Climate ”Normal”: Abrupt Sea Level Rise and Predictions of Civilization Collapse

In Uncategorized on August 21, 2015 at 3:40 pm
Helicopters drop water on the Blue Creek wildfire as it burns near Walla Walla, Wash., July 22, 2015. Officials warn about the potential for even more catastrophe in the months ahead, as drought, heat and climate change leave the landscape ever thirstier. (Ruth Fremson/The New York Times)

Helicopters drop water on the Blue Creek wildfire as it burns near Walla Walla, Washington, July 22, 2015. Officials warn about the potential for even more catastrophe in the months ahead, as drought, heat and climate change leave the landscape ever thirstier. (Ruth Fremson/The New York Times)

 

Oldspeak: “Earth Provides enough to satisfy every mans needs, but not every man’s greed.” -M. Gandhi.

“So, Yeah. That’s happening. Half of the world’s oxygen supply is quite probably GONE.  At some point in the not too distant future, air-breathing life on Earth will have half as much of it to inhale. Every day of business as usual, brings that point ever closer. Faster. Oh and Earth’s temperature is hot as Hades,  rainforests are burning, permafrost is rapidly melting, droughts are intensifying, freshwater is swiftly depleting (the San Joaquin Valley is sinking 2 inches A MONTH as a result of prolonged drought & unsustainable aquifer depletion and agricultural practice) seas are rising,  extinctions are accelerating, with pink salmon and polar bears on their way out, enjoy your romaine lettuce while you can;  you know, the ‘New Normal’.  Meanwhile Most Humans however, estranged as we are from our life-sustaining ecology are partying like it’s 1999. Destroying, extracting, heating, contaminating, consuming, emitting, polluting at the “Old Normal” pace. Behold! Human industrial civilization, the ultimate non-linear positive feedback loop! The end of the article was quite gallows humorous to me. A glaciologist, who has witnessed over an extended period the carnage being wrought in polar regions, knowing that we are on track for 4-5 degrees C of warming in the near to midterm future,  presumably knowing that ”on a planet 4 degrees C warmer all we can plan for is extinction“, spoke this fantastical absurdity: “In Denmark, we have the resilience, so I’m not that worried about my daughter’s livelihood going forward. But that doesn’t stop me from strategizing about how to safeguard her future – I’ve been looking at property in Greenland. As a possible bug-out scenario.” -Dr. Jason Box. As though it is possible to “bug out” of mass extinction. Sigh. Hopium abounds.  Enjoy Dahr Jamail’s latest postcard from the edge.” -OSJ

Written By Dahr Jamail @ Truthout:

We know things are a bit “off” when a rainforest is on fire.

Over 400 acres of the Queets Rainforest, located in Olympic National Park in Washington State, nearby where I live, have burned recently, and it is continuing to burn as I type this. Fires in these rainforests have historically been rare, as the area typically receives in excess of 200 inches of rain annually.

But this is all changing now.

The new normal is that there is no longer any “normal.”

The new normal regarding climate disruption is that, for the planet, today is better than tomorrow.

To see more stories like this, visit “Planet or Profit?”

Another perfect example of this is a crucial recent study led by James Hansen, the former director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. The study, authored by Hansen and more than a dozen other scientists and published online, warns that even staying within the internationally agreed goal of keeping the planet within the 2-degree Celsius temperature warming limit has already caused unstoppable melting in the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets. The study shows that this will raise global sea levels by as much as 10 feet by the year 2050, inundating numerous major coastal cities with seawater.

The oceans and all marine life will be “irreversibly changed” unless there are immediate and dramatic cuts in carbon dioxide emissions.

As if that’s not enough, Hansen’s study comes on the heels of another study published in Science, which shows that global sea levels could rise by at least 20 feet, even if governments manage to keep global temperature increases to within the agreed upon “safe” limit of 2 degrees Celsius. The study warns that it is quite possible that 75 feet of sea level rise could well already be unstoppable given current carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere and recent studies that show how rapidly Greenland and several Antarctic ice sheets are melting.

Disconcertingly, another new “normal” this month comes in the form of huge plumes of wildfire smoke over the Arctic. At the time of this writing, well over 12 million acres of forest and tundra in Canada and Alaska have burned in wildfires, and the smoke covering the Arctic sea ice is yet another anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) amplifying feedback loop that will accelerate melting there. The additional smoke further warms the atmosphere that quickens the melting of the Arctic ice pack.

As if that’s not enough to keep you up at night, a recently published study by a team from Anglia Ruskin University’s Global Sustainability Institute has shown that society will likely collapse within 30 years, due to catastrophic food shortages resulting from the ever-worsening impacts of ACD.

“The results show that based on plausible climate trends, and a total failure to change course, the global food supply system would face catastrophic losses, and an unprecedented epidemic of food riots,” the Institute’s director, Dr. Aled Jones, told Insurge Intelligence. “In this scenario, global society essentially collapses as food production falls permanently short of consumption.”

Another shocking study, this one published in The Anthropocene Review, shows how humans are causing catastrophic shifts in planetary ecosystems that have been unprecedented for 500 million years. The study outlines how human actions have led to extinctions of plants and animals, and added that while “species extinctions and other changes are far more advanced” already, “[g]lobal warming as a phenomenon is just beginning.”

Bad news from scientific studies flowed abundantly this last month when it comes to the oceans, as well.

Another major report, this one published in Science, warns that the oceans and all marine life will be “irreversibly changed” unless there are immediate and dramatic cuts in carbon dioxide emissions – a scenario from the realm of fantasy, given the current political climate. The report states clearly that even the 2-degree Celsius “maximum allowable temperature” rise from ACD agreed upon by world governments “will not prevent dramatic impacts on global ocean systems.”

As if all this isn’t enough to impress upon you how rapidly ACD is progressing, 2014 was also confirmed as the hottest year ever recorded, both on land and in the oceans. That report was followed by another from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that showed that the first half of 2015 was, by far, the hottest ever recorded on the planet.

As this dispatch dives into greater detail about how the world is being changed dramatically, buckle up. The news does not get any easier to take in.

Earth

The impacts from ACD continue to take dramatic tolls on the earth’s species.

Researchers recently reported that warmer temperatures across both North America and Europe are leading to loss of habitat for bumblebees, which in turn is threatening their very survival.

In the UK, several species of birds are now under threat because temperature shifts are pushing several of the species further north, even all the way to Scandinavia. Once there, the birds encounter habitat they are not adapted to, and likely won’t survive.

Scientists in the United States with the US Geological Survey released a report that shows that polar bears will have a steep decline in their populations in most places in the Arctic as the sea ice melts away. This isn’t news, but the report shows how closely scientists are monitoring the situation, due to the speed at which the melting of the polar ice cap is occurring.

Humans are not immune to the growing impacts of ACD.

Another study published in Science shows that polar bears’ metabolism will not be able to adapt quickly enough to their dramatically changing habitat as the Arctic warms and melts. This, coupled with a dramatic decline in their sources of food, again confirmed that the iconic bears are most likely en route to extinction.

Of course, humans are not immune to the growing impacts of ACD.

A report produced by the University College of London’s commission on health and climate change along with the Lancet revealed that ACD threatens to erode five decades of overall progress in global human health.

Professor Anthony Costello, director of the UCL Institute of Global Health and co-chair of the commission, told the Guardian that on our current trajectory of warming, we are going to see “very serious and potentially catastrophic effects for human health and human survival.

“We see that as a medical emergency because the action we need to do to stop that in its tracks and get us back onto a 2C trajectory or less requires action now – and action in the next 10 years – otherwise the game could be over,” he added.

For the earth itself, ACD is even leading to geo-structural changes.

In Greenland, massive earthquakes are resulting from melting glaciers, and icebergs calving from tidal glaciers collapsing into the ocean are causing consistent quakes of magnitude 4-5.2, with most of them closer to 5, according to a recent study published in Science. The calving glaciers are also causing tsunamis.

Water

As usual, the impacts of ACD are most dramatic on the waterfront.

A recent report revealed that all of the world’s sea turtles are at risk, due to rising sea levels. Higher sea levels mean their rookery sites, where their babies hatch, are becoming submerged.

Equally distressing, the entire pink salmon population in the Pacific Ocean is at risk, as they are being subjected to a double impact: the acidification of their ocean habitats, coupled with the acidification of rivers, slowing their growth and killing them off there as well.

Speaking of salmon, in Oregon, salmon must be trucked north hundreds of miles to a hatchery in Washington State, in a desperate effort to save fish that have been dying off in the tens of thousands due to increasingly warming river waters.

We know there is trouble when we are having to truck fish north in an effort to keep them alive; needless to say, this is not a sustainable activity.

A group of scientists from the Marine Conservation Institute recently announced that deep-sea coral reefs off the coast of Australia could be dead within 50 years due to warming temperatures and ocean acidification.

A series of recent studies has recently confirmed that ACD’s impacts on the oceans, including warming temperatures and acidification of the waters, is causing global seafood supplies to diminish drastically.

Plankton, the basis of the entire food chain, are threatened by ocean acidification.

More bad news for the planets’ oceans comes from a recent study that shows that plankton, the basis of the entire food chain, are threatened by ocean acidification. Some species of plankton will die out, while others will flourish, creating an imbalance that the report’s authors say will be “a big problem,” given that plankton produce half the total oxygen supply for the planet.

Pause for a moment before reading further and ponder the implications of that: The source of half the world’s oxygen is in major peril.

Droughts around the planet continue to abound.

Chile is facing its driest year to date, since record keeping began. There has been little to no snow on any of its famous ski slopes, and the lack of rainfall has worsened the already bad pollution problem in the country’s capital city.

In Canada, several counties in the province of Alberta announced in July that they were seriously considering declaring themselves in a state of agricultural disaster due to severe drought. It’s one of the worst drought’s in Alberta’s history, and one farmer said, “It’s almost get¬ting at the point rain wouldn’t help much.”

In addition to the important report on sea level rise mentioned at the beginning of this article, the Guardian recently posted a video that investigates the question of whether Filipinos will have to abandon Manila due to rising sea levels. Manila has a population of roughly 2 million people.

Needless to say, glaciers and ice sheets around the world continue to melt at breakneck speeds.

The impacts of warmer ocean temperatures “will be felt for centuries to come.”

NASA recently released a report showing that in Turkey, more than half of the ice cover in the mountainous regions has vanished since the 1970s. A map in the NASA report shows five areas in Turkey’s mountains where 100 percent of the glaciers have disappeared, and three areas where 75 percent of them are gone.

Another study released in July revealed another factor that is causing the Arctic to melt at a pace far faster than believed possible: Warm, tropical air masses are speeding up Greenland’s melting by warming Arctic air, as well as causing warmer rains to fall over the ice sheets.

Another NASA study found that the melting of Alaskan glaciers is now estimated to be one of the current largest contributors to global sea level increases. Maps in the study show dramatic changes to Alaska’s glaciers between 1994 and 2013, revealing a precipitous decline in their total mass. NASA estimates that the region lost approximately 75 billion tons of ice per year over that 19-year period, which is equivalent to around 30 percent of the amount of ice lost each year from the Greenland ice sheet.

Lastly, climate scientists affiliated with the US government announced recently that the warming of the oceans due to ACD is now unstoppable, and will continue to bring additional sea level rise, acidification and increasing global temperatures. Their report added that the impacts of the warmer ocean temperatures “will be felt for centuries to come” – even if immediate efforts are made to cut global carbon dioxide emissions.

Fire

In Canada, wildfires that have been described as “unprecedented” have forced more than 13,000 residents of Saskatchewan from their homes (a record evacuation), with wildfire-driven evacuations happening across other provinces as well.

The town of Whistler, Canada, famous for its world-class ski resort, is dealing with horrible air quality as smoke from wildfires is polluting the air across British Columbia.

NASA recently released disturbing images of smoke from the Alaskan and Canadian wildfires that is blowing out over the Greenland Sea.

Wildfires are ravaging parts of Southern California where the megadrought is cutting deep. The fire season started earlier than “normal” this year, and was helped along by massive numbers of dead trees brought to their demise by the increasing bark beetle infestation. That infestation was fueled by warmer temperatures as well as the drought itself. Hence several runaway feedback loops are feeding off one another.

A recently released study shows, again, how ACD has caused wildfire seasons around the globe to begin earlier and last later, shifting what “normal” means in the realm of fire.

Air

Heat records on three continents fell this last month, as brutally hot conditions in early July baked parts of Europe, Asia and South America. Dozens of heat records were broken: Maastricht, the Netherlands, saw 100.8 degrees Fahrenheit, an all-time July heat record for that nation, along with several other heat records throughout the country. London’s Heathrow Airport saw 98.1 degrees Fahrenheit, an all-time heat record for the UK.

In Thailand, Kamalasai saw 105.8 degrees, the hottest temperature ever recorded for that country, while other heat records across the nation were set as well. In Pakistan, morgues literally ran out of space as a heat wave there killed more than 1,000 people.

In South America, Urumita, Colombia, reached 108 degrees Fahrenheit, setting an all-time high for that country.

Heat records across the United States continue to be broken as well, including in Seattle, which has seen several record temperatures this summer, with possibly more to come.

A recent study has linked Hurricane Sandy and other extreme weather events around the globe to ACD. The study, published in Nature Climate Change, shows how ACD is ramping up extreme weather events, both in frequency and intensity, to never-before-seen levels.

Denial and Reality

Regarding ACD, news on the denial front never runs dry.

It emerged recently that Exxon was aware of ACD as far back as 1981, but continued to deliberately fund climate change deniers nonetheless … and has gone on to spend millions of dollars since then to continue to do so, to this day.

The US House of Representatives, in another stroke of genius, passed a bill that allows state governors to refuse to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, developed to lower carbon dioxide emissions from currently active power plants.

Elected politicians acting on behalf of Big Oil and Gas are functioning as little more than lobbyists for said industries, despite what’s at stake (the planet and human existence).

On the reality front, to counter these amazing acts of denial, Pope Francis continues to fight the good fight as far as ACD goes. Thousands of religious leaders recently marched in Rome in support of his call to world leaders to take a stand and work to mitigate the impacts of ACD.

On that note, more than a dozen Catholic organizations have launched a campaign that is asking Catholics around the world to change their lives in order to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions and lower their consumption.

A recent study has shown, again, that ACD has made deadly floods and record heat waves over the last month even worse, and will continue to make other extreme weather events more intense, as well as more frequent.

“We need the deniers to get out of the way. They are risking everyone’s future.”

Lastly, an excellent article in Esquire about Dr. Jason Box provides a glimpse into the dilemma climate scientists face in regards to the intensely troubling information their research is producing and the emotions elicited by it, coupled with the pressures they face politically. Box, a world-renowned glaciologist whose focus is the Greenland ice sheet, has not been shy about expressing his opinions, and sometimes emotions, about what he is seeing.

Box has said things like: “If even a small fraction of Arctic sea floor carbon is released to the atmosphere, we’re fucked,” and concluded that a 70-foot rise in sea levels over the next few centuries was probably already “baked into the system.” After these and other similar statements, he has come under intense fire from both the scientific community and – of course – the deniers.

Box, a US citizen, had already taken his family and moved to Denmark, where he works while continuing his cutting-edge studies on the Greenland ice sheet, largely due to the ongoing attacks he withstood from the oil-and-gas-funded deniers in the United States.

“We need the deniers to get out of the way. They are risking everyone’s future,” Box told Esquire. “The Koch brothers are criminals…. They should be charged with criminal activity because they’re putting the profits of their business ahead of the livelihoods of millions of people, and even life on earth.”

Box thinks there is at least a 50 percent probability that the world is already on track to go well over the 2-degree Celsius politically accepted maximum limit of global warming, and agrees with most climate scientists that we are on a trajectory toward more like 4-5-degree Celsius warming in the near to mid-term future.

When asked what amount of warming would throw Greenland into irreversible ice loss, Box answered “between two and three degrees.”

When Greenland goes, that is enough sea level rise to destroy every coastal city on the planet. Speaking of Antarctica, Box said: “Abrupt sea level rise is upon us.”

“The forests are dying, and they will not return,” he told Esquire about his home state of Colorado. “The trees won’t return to a warming climate. We’re going to see megafires even more, that’ll be the new one – megafires until those forests are cleared.”

Meanwhile, he has adjusted his life to minimize his carbon footprint, and continues his work in Greenland, but is worried about his daughter’s future. Box’s view of the disrupted climactic future is scary enough; he is thinking about survival.

“In Denmark, we have the resilience, so I’m not that worried about my daughter’s livelihood going forward,” he said. “But that doesn’t stop me from strategizing about how to safeguard her future – I’ve been looking at property in Greenland. As a possible bug-out scenario.”

Our Extinction “Problem” May Be Far, Far Worse Than We Think

In Uncategorized on August 21, 2015 at 12:55 pm

Credit: Kenneth A. Hayes

Oldspeak: This was said about 2 months ago:

Life would take many millions of years to recover, and our species itself would likely disappear early on…. We emphasize that our calculations very likely underestimate the severity of the extinction crisis.” –Dr. Gerardo Ceballos, Universidad Autónoma de México

Around the same time other scientists reported this:

Since the 1980s or so, the terms biodiversity crisis (Novacek 2001) and sixth extinction (Leakey & Lewin 1996) have been used increasingly in scientific, political, and media discourse. These issues have been explored largely by ecologists focused on mammals and birds, and invertebrates have received much less attention despite their constituting as much as 99% of animal species richness (Ponder & Lunney 1999). Measures of biodiversity decline are based essentially on knowledge of vertebrates….The focus on birds and mammals and the proportionately negligible assessment of invertebrates masks a real crisis. Although assessment of extinction for all invertebrates is impossible, it may be possible for certain, perhaps representative, groups. Such assessments might permit broad extrapolation and more realistic evaluation of true overall extinction levelsfor many invertebrates serious under-reporting of extinction may have even more serious consequences than over-reporting, especially regarding the true perception of the biodiversity crisis.” –Régnier, C., Bouchet, et al.

“My reaction? Far far worse? YEAH. NO SHIT. While it’s been estimated that 52 percent of the world’s biodiversity has been lost in the last 40 years, that assessment is profoundly underestimated and unrealistic, as the animal population that makes up 99% of animal species on earth; invertebrates; was not included in the assessment. Add to that the fact that it is currently impossible to assess extinction for invertebrates, and the cold hard reality really begins to set in. We have no realistic idea of the scale, speed and severity of overall global extinction rates. All we know is, we are as is par for the course when it comes to most life in our collapsing biosphere, consistently and colossally underestimating our “extinction problem”.  I feel that regarding mass extinction as a “problem” is the root of the calamity. Not recognizing how our actions, so far out of balance with all that lives, have brought us to this point. Underestimating the catastrophically  devastating impact of imbalance in our interconnected and interdependent Mother. Where our comfort trumps everything. Even the environment from which we came. The environment that precipitated our appearance in this plane of consciousness.” -OSJ

Written By Hilary Hanson @ The Huffington Post:

The sharp decline of land snail species in Hawaii may have frightening implications for the extinction rates of animals worldwide.

A multinational team of researchers argue that because the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List — often cited as the authority on extinct and endangered species worldwide — does not look at most invertebrates, it presents a skewed picture of extinction rates, portraying them as much lower than they are.

“The focus on birds and mammals and the proportionately negligible assessment of invertebrates masks a real crisis,” the researchers write in a paper published in the journal Conservation Biology in July.

Fewer than 1 percent of invertebrates worldwide have even been evaluated by the IUCN. Yet invertebrates constitute 95 to 99 percent of animal species, including insects, worms, snails and crustaceans — meaning there’s a lot of species that haven’t been assessed.

The researchers note that the IUCN standards for evaluating invertebrate species are so stringent that assessing many of them is virtually impossible — a problem that’s been pointed out by other scientists in the past.

In order to estimate the gap between extinction rates reported by the IUCN and real extinction rates, the researchers set out to conduct their own comprehensive survey of 325 known Hawaiian land snail species in the family Amastridae and compare their findings with the numbers listed by the IUCN.

While the IUCN cites 33 Hawaiian Amastridae species as extinct, the newer study concludes there are 131 extinct Amastridae species. Extinction rates haven’t been constant, researchers say, but have risen in connection with periods of habitat destruction and introductions of invasive species by humans.

In a study published in June, some of the same researchers had partnered with other scientists around the world to calculate that around 10 percent of a sample of 200 known land snail species worldwide had gone extinct. Of these 200 species, only nine had been evaluated on the IUCN Red List, and three of those nine were extinct.

The earlier group of scientists extrapolated from those data to estimate that 130,000 species worldwide may have gone extinct since around the year 1600, as opposed to the 800 species recognized by the IUCN.

Robert Cowie, a University of Hawaii researcher who worked on both studies, told The Huffington Post that although the new estimate may not be precise, it nevertheless suggests that “the real number of extinct species is far, far greater than that assessed as such by the IUCN.”

“It’s a bit of a leap of faith, I admit,” he told The Washington Post. “We just have to wave our arms around and say that’s the best we can do.”

He also told the Post that the intention was not to make the IUCN look bad.  

“We’re not criticizing IUCN, they’re not set up to estimate the number of species,” he told the Post. “The point of the paper is to say, the vast, vast majority of invertebrates has not been assessed.”

Contact the author of this article at Hilary.Hanson@huffingtonpost.com.

CORRECTION: The story previously misstated when a study of land snail species worldwide was published. It was published in June. The story has also been clarified to note that a second study looked at Hawaiian land snail species specifically in the family Amastridae.

 

Ecological Crisis And The Tragedy Of The Commodity

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

https://i1.wp.com/ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/71dS90SbtPL.jpg

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):

1243–1248.

[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.

Thirsty Yet? Global Urban Water Crisis Growing: These Eight Major World Cities Are Running Out Of Water

In Uncategorized on July 9, 2015 at 4:10 pm
water pipe mumbai

A woman in India walks atop a water main on her way to collect water. (Photo: Meena Kadri/Flickr)

Oldspeak: “Behold! The fruits of Industrial Civilization! It’s just physics really. When a system of infinite growth and consumption is operated on a planet with finite biocapacity, irreplaceably essential resources will eventually run out. Once mighty rivers are drying up and or terminally polluted. Reservoirs are at critical levels. Aquifers are drying up. What are we doing? Popping out babies. Curating our artificially flavored “lives”.  Being bombarded with messages to consume more and more food, alcohol and stuff. Driven by insatiable sense-pleasures. Self  medicating at unprecedented levels in an ever-growing variety of ways, to avoid feeling the base level pain and grief and sadness of existing in our well-appointed thought prisons; of bearing witness to the Great Dying we’re a part of and experiencing whether we choose to recognize it or not. Ignoring the reality of our dying world with an insidious a seductive strain of pathological anthropocentricity. Yes. Humans are running out of water.  Ecological overshoot is getting harder to ignore. The water wars have already begun, but, ultimately, fruitless uses of energy.  Before long, as population increases, and techno-fixes fail, there will be no more water to sustain us. Only Love remains.” -OSJ

Written By Marc Herman @ Take Part:

The amount of rainfall a place gets isn’t the only factor in how much water is available to it. These major urban areas show how dire the coming global freshwater shortage could get.

Earlier this year, an obscure United Nations document, the World Water Development Report, unexpectedly made headlines around the world. The report made the startling claim that the world would face a 40 percent shortfall in freshwater in as soon as 15 years. Crops would fail. Businesses dependent on water would fail. Illness would spread. A financial crash was likely, as was deepening poverty for those just getting by.

The U.N. also concluded that the forces destroying the world’s freshwater supply were not strictly meteorological, but largely the result of human activity. That means that with some changes in how water is managed, there is still time—very little, but enough—for children born this year to graduate from high school with the same access to clean water their parents enjoyed.

Though the U.N. looked at the issue across the globe, the solutions it recommended—capturing rainwater, recycling wastewater, improving sewage and plumbing, and more—need to be implemented locally. Some of the greatest challenges will come in cities, where bursting populations strain systems designed to supply far fewer people and much of the clean water available is lost to waste and shoddy, centuries-old infrastructure.

We’ve looked at eight cities facing different though representative challenges. The amount of water in the earth’s atmosphere is more or less fixed, meaning that as populations and economies grow, what we have needs to be clean, available, and conserved. Economies, infrastructure, river systems, and climates vary from place to place, and the solutions will have to as well. Here is how eight of the world’s major cities are running out of water, and trying to save it.

TOKYO

The roof of Ryogoku Kokugikan arena in Tokyo collects rainwater to be used in the building’s toilets. The inset shows a similar system for residential use. (Photo: Facebook)

Tokyo shouldn’t have a water problem: Japan’s capital enjoys average precipitation similar to that of Seattle or London. But all that rainfall is compressed into just four months of the year, in two short seasons of monsoon and typhoon. Capturing and storing so much water in such a short period in an area four times as dense as California would be a challenge anywhere. One weak rainy season means droughts—and those are now coming about once every decade.

Betting on the rain will be a precarious strategy for the world’s most populous city and its suburbs, home to more than 30 million people. When the four rivers feeding Tokyo run low, crisis conditions arrive fast. Though efficient, 70 percent of Tokyo’s 16,000-mile-long plumbing system depends on surface water (rivers, lakes, and distant snowpack). With only 30 percent of the city’s water coming from underground aquifers and wells, there are not enough alternative sources to tap during these new cyclical droughts.

The Japanese government has so far proved forward-thinking, developing one of the world’s most aggressive programs for capturing rainwater. In Sumida, a Tokyo district that often faces water shortages, the 90,000-square-foot roof of Ryogoku Kokugikan arena is designed to channel rainfall to a tank, where it’s pumped inside the stadium for nonpotable use.

Somewhat more desperate-seeming is a plan to seed clouds, prodding the environment to do what it isn’t doing naturally. Though tested in 2013 with success, the geo-engineering hack is a source of controversy; scientists debate whether the technique could produce enough rain to make much of a difference for such a large population.

MIAMI

As a result of a 20th-century project to drain nearby swamps, water from the Atlantic Ocean began seeping in to the Biscayne Aquifer, Miami’s main source of freshwater. (Infographic: YouTube)

Though most Americans’ concern with water shortage in the U.S. is firmly focused on California at the moment, a crisis is brewing in the last place you’d figure: South Florida, which annually gets four times as much rain, on average, as Los Angeles and about three times as much as San Francisco.

But according to the U.S. Geological Survey, the essential Biscayne Aquifer, which provides water to the Miami–Dade County area, is falling victim to saltwater intrusion from the Atlantic Ocean. Despite the heavy rains replenishing the aquifer year-round, if enough saltwater enters, all of it will become unusable.

The problem arose in the early 20th century, after swamps surrounding the city were drained. Osmosis essentially created a giant sucking effect, drawing the Atlantic into the coastal soils. Measures to hold the ocean back began as early as the 1930s, but seawater is now bypassing the control structures that were installed and leaking into the aquifer. The USGS has made progress mapping the sea water intrusion, but ameliorating it seems a ways off. “As sea level continues to rise and the demand for freshwater increases, the measures required to prevent this intrusion may become more difficult [to implement],” the USGS noted in a press release.

LONDON

A view of the River Thames in London. In just a decade from now, the city’s water infrastructure will be unable to provide for its growing population. (Photo: IDS Photos/Flickr)

London faces a rapidly growing population wringing every last drop out of centuries-old plumbing. Water managers estimate they can meet the city’s needs for the next decade but must find new sources by 2025—even sooner than the rest of the world, by the U.N.’s measure. London’s utility, Thames Water, looked into recycled water—aka “toilet-to-tap”—but, being English, found it necessary first to politely ask people if they’d mind.

At least four urban districts in California use recycled water, which is treated, re-treated, and treated again to be cleaner than conventional supplies before being pumped into groundwater or other supply sources. The so-called “yuck factor” could be an impediment to this solution spreading to London and elsewhere.

CAIRO

The Nile Delta. Ninety-seven percent of Egypt’s water comes from the Nile; 85 percent goes to agriculture, and towns upwater from Cairo dump untreated agriculture and municipal waste into the river. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Five thousand years ago, an ample water supply and a fertile delta at the mouth of the Nile supported the growth of one of the world’s great civilizations. Today, while 97 percent of Egypt’s water comes from the great river, Cairo finds itself downstream from at least 50 poorly regulated factories, agricultural waste, and municipal sewage systems that drain into it.

Though Cairo gets most of the attention, a UNICEF–World Health Organization study released earlier this year found that rural areas to the city’s south, where more than half of Egyptians live, depend on the river not just for irrigation and drinking water but also for waste disposal. Engineer Ayman Ramadan Mohamed Ayad has noted that while most wastewater discharged into the Nile upriver from Cairo is untreated, the river’s enormous size has historically been sufficient to dilute the waste to safe levels (and Cairo’s municipal system treats the water it draws from the river). Ayad argues, however, that as the load increases—with 20 million people now discharging their wastes to the Nile—this will no longer be possible. The African Development Bank recently funded programs to chlorinate wastewater before it’s dumped in the river, but more will need to be done.

On the demand side, more than 80 percent of the water taken from the Nile each year is used for irrigation, mostly the inefficient method of just flooding fields, which loses significant amounts to evaporation. Two years ago, initial steps were taken to modernize irrigation techniques upriver. Those programs have yet to show much progress, however.

SÃO PAOLO

The Cantareira reservoir is one of the main water reservoirs that supplies the state of São Paulo, Brazil. The water level of the whole Cantareira System has recently fallen to 6 percent of total capacity. (Photo: Victor Moriyama/Getty Images)

When it rains in Brazil, it pours. In São Paolo, where in an average year it rains more than it does in the U.S. Pacific Northwest, drains can’t handle the onslaught, and what could be the resource of desperately needed drinking water becomes instead the menace of urban floodwater.

With the worst drought in a century now in its second year, São Paolo’s reservoirs are at barely a quarter of capacity, down from 40 percent a year ago. Yet the city still sees heavy rainstorms. But reservoirs outside the city are often polluted and are too small even at capacity to supply the metropolitan area of 20 million. Asphalt covering the city and poor drainage lead to heavy floods on city streets after as little as a quarter-inch of rain. It’s hard to believe a drought is under way if your house is ankle-deep in water, so consumers haven’t been strident about conservation. The apparent paradox of flooded streets and empty reservoirs will likely fuel an ongoing debate over proposed rationing.

BEIJING

The Jingmi diversion canal, shown here under maintenance, transports freshwater from Miyun reservoir, Beijing’s main water source, 127 kilometers to the city. (Photo: Xiao Lu Chu/Getty Images)

Poor air quality isn’t the only thing impinging Beijing citizens’ ability to enjoy a safe environment. The city’s second-largest reservoir, shut down in 1997 because of pollution from factories and agriculture, has not been returned to use.

Ensuring the cleanliness of its water is even more crucial in China than elsewhere, as there is little it can afford to lose: With 21 percent of the world’s population, China has only 6 percent of its freshwater—a situation that’s only going to get worse, as it’s raining less in northern China than it was a century ago, and glaciers in Tibet, once the largest system outside the Antarctic and Greenland and a key source of drinking water in the country’s south and west, are receding even faster than predicted. The U.N. Environment Programme estimates that nationally, Chinese citizens can rely on getting just one-quarter to one-third of the amount of clean water the rest of the world uses daily.

Add context and dimension to the issues you care about with personal stories and gripping long form narratives reported from the inside of where news is happening.

Hope emerged, however, from a 2013 study from Montreal’s McGill University, which found that an experimental program targeting farmers outside the capital showed promising results over nearly two decades. The vast Miyun reservoir, 100 miles outside Beijing, had seen its reserves reduced by nearly two-thirds because of increasing irrigation demands—while becoming polluted by agricultural runoff. Revenue from a tax on major water users in Beijing was spent paying farmers upstream from Miyun to grow corn instead of rice, which requires more water and creates more runoff.

Over the following 15 years, the study authors wrote, “fertilizer runoff declined sharply while the quantity of water available to downstream users in Beijing and surrounding areas increased.” Farmer income was not significantly affected, and cleaner water downstream led to higher earnings for consumers in the city despite the tax.

BANGALORE, India

Rendition of an apartment complex under development in Bangalore, India, and (inset) its construction. New housing is going up in the city faster than the utility can expand and repair the decaying water system. (Photos: Courtesy PrestigeConstructions.com)

Earlier this year, a report by India’s comptroller and auditor general found that the southern city was losing more than half its drinking water to waste through antiquated plumbing systems. Big losses from leaks aren’t uncommon—Los Angeles loses between 15 and 20 percent—but the situation in Bangalore is more complicated. A technology boom has attracted new residents, leading to new housing construction. Entire apartment blocks are going up faster than local officials can update the plumbing to handle additional strain on the water and sewage systems.

Bangalore’s clean-water challenges illustrate a dynamic that’s repeating itself across the world’s second-largest nation. India’s urban population will grow from 340 million to 590 million by 2030, according to a 2010 McKinsey study. To meet the clean-water needs of all the new city dwellers, the global consulting firm found, the government will have to spend $196 billion—more than 10 percent of the nation’s annual GDP. (McKinsey has a potential financial interest in India’s infrastructure, so its numbers may be inflated.)

In Bangalore, they’re already behind schedule. The newspaper The Hindu reported in March that a 2002 plan to repair the existing system and recover the missing half of Bangalore’s freshwater had yet to be implemented.

MEXICO CITY

A worker fills tanks from a water truck in a poor neighborhood in Mexico City. The city’s water utility estimates that it loses 260 gallons—enough to provide a family of four for a day—per second to leaky pipes in the system. (Photo: Reuters/Eliana Aponte)

Gravity always wins. At more than 7,000 feet above sea level, Mexico City gets nearly all its drinking water by pumping it laboriously uphill from aquifers as far as 150 miles away. The engineering challenge of hauling that much water into the sky adds to the difficulty of supplying more than 20 million residents through an aging system. Mexico City’s public works loses enough water every second—an estimated 260 gallons—to supply a family of four for a day, according to CONAGUA, Mexico’s national water commission. CONAGUA estimates that between 30 and 40 percent of the capital’s potable water is lost to leaks and spills. The good news is that leaks can be fixed.

Water quality remains a worry, however. Unsurprisingly, companies selling bottled water have done very well in Mexico. The economy growing around the lack of potable water has attracted companies such as Coca-Cola and France’s Danone, whose Bonafont (“good spring”) brand is advertised in Mexico as a weight-loss aid. (Toting a bottle will help you “feel thinner anywhere,” according to a popular television ad.)

Meanwhile, disputes over who will get access to underground supplies have turned violent: In February 2014, residents of the town of San Bartolo Atepehuacan, on Mexico City’s outskirts, clashed with police over a waterworks project they feared would divert local springs to the city’s business district. At least 100 people were injured and five arrested as the disturbances continued for more than three months.

A Global War On Nature & The Politics Of Extinction- An Introduction To The Most Beautiful Animal You’ll Never See

In Uncategorized on March 31, 2015 at 3:13 pm

The saola, one of the rarest and most threatened mammals on the planet. In 2010, villagers in Bolikhamxay captured a saola, but the animal subsequently died.

Oldspeak: “Where is the madness which you should be cleansed?  Behold I teach you the Superman: he is that lightning, he is that madness!… When Zarathustra had spoken these words he again looked at the people and was silent.  There they stand (said he to his heart), there they laugh: they understand me not; I am not the mouth for these ears.  Must one first batter their ears that they may learn to hear with their eyes?  must one rumble like drums and Lenten preachers?  Or do they only believe those who stammer?  They have something of which they are proud.  What do they call it that which makes them proud?  Culture they call it; it distinguishes them from the goatherds.  They therefore dislike having the word ‘contempt’ said of them.  So I will appeal to their pride.  I will speak to them of the most contemptible man: and that is the Ultimate Man!”  And thus spoke Zarathustra to the people: It is time for man to fix his goal.  It is time for man to plant the seed of his highest hope.  His soil is still rich enough for it.  But this soil will one day be poor and exhausted; no lofty tree will be able to grow from it.  Alas!  The time is coming when man will no longer shoot the arrow of his longing beyond mankind— and the string of his bow will have forgotten how to twang!  I tell you: one must have chaos in one, to give birth to a dancing star.  I tell you: you have still chaos in you.  Alas!  The time is coming when man will give birth to no more stars.  Alas!  The time of the most contemptible man is coming, the man who can no longer despise himself.  Behold!  I show you The Ultimate Man.  “What is love?  What is creation?  What is longing?  What is a star?”  – asks the Ultimate Man and blinks.  The earth has then become small and on it there hops the Ultimate Man who makes everything small.  His race is as ineradicable as the flea; the Ultimate Man lives longest.  “We have discovered happiness”— say the Ultimate Men and blink.  They have left the regions where it is hard to live; for they need warmth.  One still loves one’s neighbour and rubs again him; for one needs warmth.  Sickness and mistrust they consider sinful: they walk warily.  He is a fool who still stumbles over stones or over men!  A little poison now and then: that makes for pleasant dreams.  And a lot of poison at the end for a pleasant death.  One still works for work is a pastime.  But they take care that this pastime does not weary them.  No-one becomes poor or rich anymore; both are too wearying.  Who still wants to rule?  Who still wants to obey?  Both are too much of a burden.  No herdsman and one herd!  Everyone wants the same, everyone is the same: whoever thinks otherwise goes voluntarily into the madhouse.  “Before, the whole world was mad”— say the cleverest amongst them and blink.  They are clever and know all that has ever happened: so there is no end to their mockery.  People still quarrel, but are soon reconciled— otherwise indigestion would result.  They have their little pleasures for the day and their little pleasures for the night: but they respect health.  “We have discovered happiness “— say the Ultimate Men and blink.” -Friedrich Nietzsche, “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”

“Behold! The Madness Of The Ultimate Man… I have no words, but much Grief. *Blink* ” -OSJ

By Tom Engelhardt &William deBuys @ Tomsdispatch:

In her bestselling book The Sixth Extinction, the New Yorker‘s superb environmental journalist, Elizabeth Kolbert, reports on an event, already unfolding in the present moment, the likes of which may only have been experienced five other times in the distant history of life on this planet. As she writes, “It is estimated that one-third of all reef-building corals, a third of all fresh-water mollusks, a third of sharks and rays, a quarter of all mammals, a fifth of all reptiles, and a sixth of all birds are headed toward oblivion. The losses are occurring all over: in the South Pacific and in the North Atlantic, in the Arctic and the Sahel, in lakes and on islands, on mountaintops and in valleys. If you know how to look, you can probably find signs of the current extinction event in your own backyard.”

Scientists believe that this round of mass extinction is accelerating, and one way or another, it all traces back to us, whether thanks to the way we are changing the planet’s atmosphere or to what Kolbert terms a human-induced, often disastrous “intercontinental reshuffling of species.” But of all the ways in which that mass extinction is being pushed forward, none is more straightforwardly obvious than the quite literal slaughter that constitutes the illegal animal trade.  In recent years, environmentalist and TomDispatch regular William deBuys set out to see the results of that aspect of mass extinction for himself, and what a grisly spectacle it proved to be.  In the process, he penetrated deep into the jungles of Laos in search of a deer-like creature you’ve undoubtedly never heard of that may — or may not — still exist.

It was an adventure of the first order, which deBuys depicts in his remarkable new book, The Last Unicorn: A Search for One of Earth’s Rarest Creatures. He captures both the grimness of what’s happening to animals of every sort in the distant forests of a land we’ve paid no attention to since the Vietnam War ended and the glorious beauty of the species we humans are indeed destroying. The result is both a personal adventure story and a missive from a planet undergoing a rare form of destruction. Today at this site, he offers us all a look at one of what could be the final “achievements” of humankind: the ability to devastate this planet in a way no other creature would be capable of.

Kolbert ends her book on a question that any mass extinction on planet Earth would naturally have to bring up sooner or later: What about us?  In extinction terms, could we potentially be just another form of rhinoceros? Are we, in fact, capable not just of creating civilizations but engaging in a kind of species suicide? This is, of course, a question that can’t be answered, but she adds, “The anthropologist Richard Leakey has warned that ‘Homo Sapiens might not only be the agent of the sixth extinction, but also risks being one of its victims.’ A sign in the Hall of Biodiversity [at the American Museum of Natural History in New York] offers a quote from the Stanford ecologist Paul Ehrlich: ‘In pushing other species to extinction, humanity is busy sawing off the limb on which it perches.’” Take a moment, then, with deBuys to experience what that sawing-off process is like, up close and personal. -Tom

The Politics of Extinction
An Introduction to the Most Beautiful Animal You’ll Never See
By William deBuys

Maybe baby steps will help, but the world needs a lot more than either the United States or China is offering to combat the illegal traffic in wildlife, a nearly $20-billion-a-year business that adds up to a global war against nature. As the headlines tell us, the trade has pushed various rhinoceros species to the point of extinction and motivated poachers to kill more than 100,000 elephants since 2010.

Last month China announced that it would ban ivory imports for a year, while it “evaluates” the effectiveness of the ban in reducing internal demand for ivory carvings on the current slaughter of approximately 100 African elephants per day. The promise, however, rings hollow following a report in November (hotly denied by China) that Chinese diplomats used President Xi Jinping’s presidential plane to smuggle thousands of pounds of poached elephant tusks out of Tanzania.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration has launched its own well-meaning but distinctly inadequate initiative to curb the trade. Even if you missed the roll-out of that policy, you probably know that current trends are leading us toward a planetary animal dystopia, a most un-Disneyesque world in which the great forests and savannas of the planet will bid farewell to the species earlier generations referred to as their “royalty.” No more King of the Jungle, while Dorothy’s “Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!” will truly be over the rainbow. And that’s just for starters.

The even grimmer news that rarely makes the headlines is that the lesser subjects of that old royalty are vanishing, too. Though largely unacknowledged, the current war is far redder in tooth and claw than anything nature has to offer. It threatens not just charismatic species like elephants, gibbons, and rhinos, but countless others with permanent oblivion.

If current trends hold, one day not so very long from now our children may think of the T. rex and the tiger as co-occupants of a single Lost World, accessible only in dreams, storybooks, and the movies. Sure, some of the planet’s present megafauna will be bred in zoos for as long as society produces enough luxury to maintain such institutions. Even the best zoo, however, is but a faint simulacrum of wild habitat and its captives are ghosts of their free-roaming forebears.

That’s why the Obama administration deserves some credit for highlighting the urgent need to curb the wildlife trade. Its plan calls for using assets of the National Intelligence Council to advance enforcement efforts. Unfortunately, the administration proposes boosting the enforcement budget of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency with primary responsibility in this area, by only $8 million. Such an increase would lift its force of inspectors just slightly above the levels of 30 years ago when the illicit trade in wildlife was far smaller.

To grasp the breadth of the carnage now going on, it’s essential to realize that the war against nature is being waged on an almost infinite number of planetary fronts, affecting hundreds of species, and that the toll is already devastating. Among the battlefields, none may be bloodier than the forests of Southeast Asia, for they lie closest to China, the world’s most ravenous (and lucrative) market for wildlife and wildlife parts.

China’s taste for wildlife penetrates even the least visited corners of the region, where professional poachers industriously gather live porcupines and turtles, all manner of venison, monkey hands, python fat, pangolin scales, otter skins, gall bladders, antlers, horns, bones, and hundreds of other items. These goods, dead or alive, are smuggled to markets in China and elsewhere. Meanwhile, an expanding economy enables ever more millions of people to purchase expensive animal commodities they believe might stave off disease or provide the fancy restaurant meals that will impress in-laws and business associates.

To put the present war in perspective, think of it this way: every year, more and more money chases fewer and fewer creatures.

Slaughter at the Ground Level

In a typical forest in Southeast Asia you might encounter a snare line stretching a kilometer or more along a mountain ridge or running down one side of a canyon and all the way up the other. These barriers are waist-high walls of chopped brush, with gaps every few meters. They are hedges of death.

Almost any mammal traveling in this landscape, if larger than a tree shrew (which would fit in a modest handbag), sooner or later will have to pass through one of these gaps, and in each a snare awaits. Powered by a bent-over sapling, it lies beneath a camouflage of leaves and hides a loop of bicycle brake cable — or truck winch cable for larger animals like tigers. The trigger controlling each snare is made of small sticks and can be astonishingly sensitive. I’ve seen snares set for deer and wild pig that were no less capable of capturing creatures as light of foot as a jungle fowl, the wild cousin of the domestic chicken, or a silver pheasant, the males of which shimmer in the dusky forest like bundles of fallen moonbeams.

On an expedition to central Laos, my companions and I made our way into a forest distinguished mainly by its remoteness. The Vietnamese border lay perhaps a dozen kilometers to the east, closer by far than the nearest village, four days’ hard march away, where we’d recruited the guides and porters traveling with us. That village, in turn, lay two days by foot and motorized pirogue from the end of the nearest road. The head of our expedition, conservation biologist William Robichaud, the only other westerner in our group of 14, told me that, unless a distressed American pilot had parachuted into the sprawling watershed that lay before us during the Vietnam War, ours were the first blue eyes that had glimpsed it.

Isolation, however, failed to protect the canyons and ridges we surveyed. Evidence lay everywhere of commercial poachers who had crossed the mountains from Vietnam to feed the Chinese market. In a matter of days, we collected wires from almost a thousand snares. In them, we found the decaying carcasses of ferret badgers, hog badgers, mongooses, various species of birds, and several critically endangered large-antlered muntjacs, a species of barking deer, one of which, in its struggle to free itself, had pulled off its own foot before dying nearby.

We camped by fish-rich rivers that had been stripped of their otters and saw the remains of dozens of poachers’ camps, some elaborately equipped with butchering tables and smoking racks. Saddest of all was the sight of a red-shanked douc (also called a douc langur), perhaps the most beautiful monkey in the world, dangling upside down at the end of a snare pole, having succumbed to as slow and cruel a death as might be imagined.

The indiscriminant wastefulness of this massive trapping enterprise is hard to absorb even when you see it yourself. Poachers check their snare lines haphazardly and leave them armed when they depart the area. This means the killing goes on indefinitely, no matter if the bodies languish and rot.

A Unicorn Still in the Wild?

Though we were in that forest in part to remove snares and assess the nature of the ongoing damage, our main goal was to find a unicorn — or actually an animal almost as rare, a creature that might indeed have already moved, or might soon move, from Earth’s natural realms to the realm of mythology. We were searching for any sign of saola(Pseudoryx nghetinhensis), one of the rarest large mammals on the planet. Its very existence, though known to locals, was revealed to science only in 1992, when researchers spotted a strange set of horns on the wall of a hunter’s shack high in the mountains of Vietnam.

Saola proved to be much more than a new species. It represented a new genus, possibly even a new taxonomic tribe, although the jury is still out on that. A kind of bovid, a ruminant with cloven hooves, its nearest evolutionary relatives appear to be wild cattle, yet it looks nothing like a cow or bison. A saola stands a little higher than a carousel pony. Deer-like, but thicker in form, its powerful build helps it push through the densest vegetation. Its muzzle is splashed with camo patterns of white, and its tri-colored tail — white, chocolate brown, and black — blends with similar bands of color on its rump. Its long, nearly straight horns are elegantly tapered, and in profile they seem to blend into a single horn, giving the creature the otherworldly look of a unicorn.

At best, the existing population of saola numbers between a few dozen and a few hundred, making it nearly as rare and hard to find as a unicorn. Even stranger, its disposition, except when the animal is directly threatened, appears to be as gentle as that of the unicorns of medieval European lore.

In 1996, Robichaud spent two weeks in a rough crossroads town in central Laos observing a captive saola. The unfortunate creature did not survive long in the menagerie in which it was held — no saola has lasted more than a few months in confinement and none is held anywhere today — but he had ample opportunity to note that it reacted alertly, even violently, to the presence of a dog outside its enclosure. (Wild dogs, or dholes, are among its natural enemies.)

Eerily, however, the saola was calm in the presence of humans — far more so than the barking deer or the serow (a species of mountain goat) in nearby cages, even though they had been in the menagerie far longer. Captured in the wild just before Robichaud arrived, the saola proved calmer than any domestic goat, sheep, or cow he had known from farms in his native Wisconsin. The captive saola even let him pick ticks from its ears. Local information buttressed Robichaud’s sense of the creature’s almost unearthly serenity. A Buddhist monk from a nearby temple told him that people in the area had dubbed the creature “sat souphap,” which translates roughly as “the polite animal.”

Today, no one knows if the clock of extinction for the species stands at two minutes before midnight or two minutes after. The greatest threat to its survival is the kind of snaring we witnessed on our expedition, which is doubly tragic, for saola do not appear to be a target of the poachers. In spite of its exotic horns, the animal is unknown in traditional Chinese medicine. (Its omission from that medical tradition’s encyclopedic command of Asian fauna and flora testifies to its profound isolation from the rest of the world.) Rather, the last living remnants of the species risk being taken as by-catch, like sea turtles in a shrimper’s net.

The Politics of Extinction

The situation may be terrible, but at least there are parks and protected areas in Southeast Asia where wild creatures are safe, right?

Alas, wrong. Our travels took place in an official National Protected Area in Laos where snaring of the kind we witnessed is blatantly illegal. Yet the deadly harvest continues, there and elsewhere, thanks to insufficient investment in protection and law enforcement, not to mention insufficient political will in countries whose overriding priority is economic development. Last year in the protected area of more than 4,000 square kilometers (1,544 square miles) that we visited, a small number of government patrols removed nearly 14,000 snares, undoubtedly a small fraction of what’s there.

The same is true elsewhere. According to the Saola Working Group, a committee sponsored by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, patrols that its members help to fund and supervise in just five protected areas in Laos and Vietnam (including the one in which we traveled) have destroyed more than 90,000 snares since 2011. And yet that, too, is just a drop in the bucket of the wildlife trade.While the trade’s reach is global, the stakes may be highest in Southeast Asia (including Indonesia and the Philippines). About half the world’s people live there or in the adjacent countries of China, Bangladesh, and India. The region leads the world in the proportion of its birds and mammals that are endemic; that is, found nowhere else. Unfortunately, it also leads in the proportion in imminent danger of extinction, due in large measure to the wildlife trade. Worse yet, no country in Southeast Asia possesses a tradition of effective biological conservation.

Already many forests that once were rich in tigers, leopards, gaur, banteng, and gibbons are devoid of any mammals larger than a cocker spaniel. If the rest of the world truly wants to protect the planet’s endangered biodiversity, assisting the governments and NGOs of Southeast Asia in safeguarding their region’s natural heritage needs to be a global priority.

Critics often point out that the West is hypocritical in urging the East to do what it failed to accomplish in its own grim history of development. Indeed, the present sacking of Asian forests is analogous to the stripping of beaver from western American streams and the subsequent extirpation of bison herds in the nineteenth century. Nevertheless, if the West has learned one thing, it’s that conservation in advance of calamity costs much less than repairs after the fact and that it is the only way to prevent irreparable mistakes. No matter what moral ground you stand on, the facts in the field are simple: our best chance to avert catastrophe lies before us, right now.

Other critics complacently observe that extinction has always been part of evolution and that other epochs have seen similar waves of species loss. New species, they say, will emerge to take the places of those we destroy. Such a view may be technically correct, but it commits an error of scale.

Evolution will continue; it cannot not continue. But the inexorable emergence of what Darwin called “endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful” proceeds at a nearly geological pace. By comparison, our human tenancy of Earth is a fleeting breath. Within the time frame of what we call civilization, the extinctions we cause are as eternal as any human accomplishment.

A Loneliness That Could Stretch to Infinity

The essential conservation task before the world is to protect key habitats and wildlife populations long enough for generational attitudes to change in China and its neighbors. At least in part, this means meeting the war on nature with a martial response. Whether protecting elephants in Kenya, mountain gorillas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (a cause movingly depicted in the documentary film Virunga), tigers in Thailand, or saola in Laos, one has to prepare, quite literally, to meet fire with fire.

In the case of our expedition in Laos, three of our guides doubled as militia and carried AK-47s. The weapons were not for show. Poachers are generally similarly armed. On one occasion, such a band, traveling in the dead of night, nearly walked into our camp, only to melt back into the forest when they realized they’d been discovered.

Good news, however, glimmers amid the bad. Although the shift will take time, cultural values in Asia are beginning to change. Witness the recent abandonment of shark fin soup by Chinese consumers. The San Francisco-based NGO WildAid reports that sales of shark fins have plummeted 82% in Guangzhou (formerly Canton), the hub of the shark trade, and that two-thirds of the respondents to a recent poll cited public “awareness campaigns” against the global destruction of shark populations as a reason for ending their consumption.

Only by rising to the challenge of species protection — not “eventually,” but now — can we ensure that nature’s most magnificent creations will persist in the wild to delight future generations. Only through generous cooperation with Asian partners, boosting both law enforcement and political resolve, can we preserve the stunning, often cacophonous, and always mysterious diversity of a large share of the planet’s most biologically productive ecosystems.

The dystopian alternative is terrible to consider. Uncounted species — not just tigers, gibbons, rhinos, and saola, but vast numbers of smaller mammals, amphibians, birds, and reptiles — are being pressed to the brink. We’ve hardly met them and yet, within the vastness of the universe, they and the rest of Earth’s biota are our only known companions. Without them, our loneliness would stretch to infinity.

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William deBuys, a TomDispatch regular, is the author of eight books. His latest, just published, is The Last Unicorn: A Search for One of Earth’s Rarest Creatures (Little, Brown and Company, 2015). His website is williamdebuys.com.

2014 Was The Hottest Year On Record Globally By Far

In Uncategorized on January 7, 2015 at 1:29 am
JMA2014

Oldspeak: “It’s official. 2014 was hot as fuck. Like, Siberian permafrost melting hot. My question is, if it’s already record-shattering hot, what happens when El Nino, that usually accounts for abnormally hot periods arrives?!?!? I’m gonna the proverbial hell of all breaks loose. It’s my feeling that this is extinction event is happening far faster than even our most learned scientists realize. It is gaining speed in a non-linear fashion. Every single update and revision of the latest science and data speaks of underestimation. This is happening faster and far more unpredictably than even the most advanced climate models can predict. Given these facts, the likelihood of even more abrupt changes and effects, increases daily. Still, something close to silence on this, the only thing that is news, in corporate media. There has been more reporting on NYPD cops turning their backs on the mayor. We need a truth and reconciliation commission on the fate of our Great Mother.” -OSJ 

By Joe Romm @ Think Progress:

The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) has announced that 2014 was the hottest year in more than 120 years of record-keeping — by far. NOAA is expected to make a similar call in a couple of weeks and so is NASA.

As the JMA graph shows, there has been no “hiatus” or “pause” in warming. In fact, there has not even been a slowdown. Yes, in JMA’s ranking of hottest years, 1998 is in (a distant) second place — but 1998 was an outlier as the graph shows. In fact, 1998 was boosted above the trendline by an unusual super-El Niño. It is usually the combination of the underlying long-term warming trend and the regional El Niño warming pattern that leads to new global temperature records.

What makes setting the record for hottest year in 2014 doubly impressive is that it occurred despite the fact we’re still waiting for the start of El Niño. But this is what happens when a species keeps spewing record amounts of heat-trapping carbon pollution into the air, driving CO2 to levels in the air not seen for millions of years, when the planet was far hotter and sea levels tens of feet higher.

The JMA is a World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Regional Climate Center of excellence. The WMO had announced a month ago that 2014 was on track to be hottest year on record. Different climate-tracking groups around the world use different data sets, so they can show different results for 2014 depending on how warm December turns out to be.

But in mid-December, NOAA said it’s all but certain 2014 will be a record setter. It released this figure showing that

NOAA-YTD-11-14

all plausible scenarios for December still leave last year as the hottest ever (click to enlarge):

If you were wondering how 2014 could be the hottest year on record when it wasn’t particularly hot in the United States (if we ignore California and Alaska), NBC News has the story. It turns out there’s like a whole planet out there that has been getting very toasty:

Some of the hottest places in the world in 2014 included:

          • Europe was the hottest it’s been in 500 years. One new analysis concluded “global warming has made a temperature anomaly like the one observed in 2014 in Europe at least 80 times more likely.”
          • California had record-smashing heat, which helped create its “most severe drought in the last 1200 years.”
          • Australia broke heat records across the continent (for the second year running). Back in January, “temperatures soared higher than 120°F (49°C).”
          • Much of Siberia “defrosted in spring and early summer under temperatures more than 9°F (5°C) above its 1981 to 2010 average,” as Live Science noted. This is the second exceptionally hot summer in a row for the region, and scientists now think the huge crater discovered this year in the area “was probably caused by thawing permafrost.”
            • The permafrost (soon to be renamed the permamelt) contains twice as much carbon as the entire atmosphere. If we don’t reverse emissions trends sharply and soon, then the carbon released from it this century alone could boost global warming as much as 1.5F

 

 

 

Climate Disruption Depression & Emissions Rising, Breaking & Setting New Records

In Uncategorized on November 26, 2014 at 1:17 pm

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Oldspeak: Hey kids. I took a break from the show to do  some volunteer work at a homeless shelter in Jamaica. The work was rewarding and much-needed. While I was there, I witnessed first hand the devastating impacts anthropogenic climate change and global warming are having in that land. Persistent and long-lasting drought in regions of the island historically rain-soaked. Yellowing, dead and dying trees and other fauna dotting the countryside. Reports from long time beach dwelling locals who’ve observed the seas advance, swallowing up their white sand beaches. When I got there in October, the beach where I was staying in Boston Bay was gorgeous, but even then the evidence of erosion was obvious. When I left in November, after several days of stormy rough and high seas, the beach was pretty much gone, as the ocean had encroached several feet on to the beach.  Buried under tons of seaweed, amounts which locals told me they’d never seen in the past. On the heels of a bizarre near 40 degree temperature swing in the New York area (on Monday it was near 70 degrees, today it is 34 and snowing, the Buffalo area recently got a years worth of snow in 36 hours), and the eve of Thanksgiving; America’s tribute to the beginning of the end of First Nations People here and orgy of excess and extinction inducing consumption; we take a moment to check in with Dahr Jamail and his monthly climate dispatch. Predictably, the news is not good. In fact, It’s getting worse by the day, and the destruction is getting more and more obvious to 1st worlders. Alas, The life consuming meat grinder that is Industrial Civilization drones on, relentless, oblivious, in a zombie-like trance state, growing larger and greedier by the moment. Throwing the Ecology ever more out of balance. Enjoy the fruits of our irreparably spoiled ecology while you can. Sooner than you think,  The Giving Tree that is our Great Mother will have nothing left to give but a place to be still and perish. Gobble, Gobble!!! ” -OSJ

By Dahr Jamail @ Truthout:

“The impact of industrially packaged quanta of energy on the social environment tends to be degrading, exhausting, and enslaving, and these effects come into play even before those which threaten the pollution of the physical environment and the extinction of the (human) race.”

– Austrian philosopher Ivan Illich, 1973 article in Le Monde

 

This month’s dispatch surveys global calls for massive carbon dioxide cuts from the European Union (EU) and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that are still not enough to truly mitigate the impacts of anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) or stem the massive wildlife disruptions that are now occurring globally, and highlights other glaring signs of an increasingly unstable climate across the globe.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has concluded that, “Coal will nearly overtake oil as the dominant energy source by 2017 . . . without a major shift away from coal, average global temperatures could rise by 6 degrees Celsius by 2050, leading to devastating climate change.”

A recently announced EU plan to cut carbon dioxide emissions 40 percent by 2030 was called “too weak” by IPCC Vice Chair Professor Jim Skea, who added that this goal will commit future governments to “extraordinary and unprecedented” emissions cuts.

China and the United States recently unveiled new pledges on greenhouse gas emissions. President Barack Obama claimed that the move was “historic” as he set a new goal of reducing US levels between 26 and 28 percent by 2025, compared with 2005 levels. Meanwhile China did not set a specific target, but said its emissions would peak by 2030. Again, considering how far along the planet already is in terms of ACD impacts with every year continuing to see new emission records set globally, these gestures seem more symbolic than of a magnitude geared toward true mitigation.

Perhaps the same can be said of the recent IPCC statement, which announced that fossil fuel use must be completely eradicated by 2100.

And the warning signs of progressing ACD continue to mount.

The United Kingdom’s chief scientist recently warned that the planet’s oceans face a “serious and growing risk” from anthropogenic carbon emissions.

Earlier this year, the World Meteorological Organization reported that the world is roughly five times as prone to disaster as it was just 40 years ago.

Given what we’ve seen thus far, the warning is dire indeed.

Earth

This last month saw several ACD-related impacts across the earth.

Caribou feces found in a 700-year-old ice layer were found to contain a virus, which reminded us once again of unintended consequences from overheating the planet. According to the report published in New Scientist, potential threats to people and wildlife through melting caused by ACD are increasing. “The find confirms that virus particles are very good ‘time capsules’ that preserve their core genomic material, making it likely that many prehistoric viruses are still infectious to plants, animals or humans,” said Jean-Michel Claverie of the Aix-Marseille University School of Medicine in France, who was part of the team who found the virus.

Warmer winters in Alaska are causing increasing numbers of geese to forego their usual 3,300-mile migration, evidence of how climate disruptions are heavily impacting wildlife. Scientists have documented how increasing numbers of Pacific black brant are doing this. Prior to 1977, fewer than 3,000 of them wintered in Alaska. In recent years, however, more than 40,000 have remained, and as many as 50,000 stayed last year.

“The temperatures now in winter are much warmer,” said David Ward, a researcher at US Geological Survey’s Alaska Science Center, who conducted the research along with scientists from the US Fish and Wildlife Service. “In years past you’d often have ice that would build up in these lagoons, and the eelgrass would be unavailable for the winter period. But now that’s changing. The change not only causes a disturbance in the natural rhythms of the geese, but will have unknown ramifications throughout the ecological system the geese are part of.”

Further south in California, sandhill cranes are finding their habitat squeezed by the ongoing drought in that state, as more and more of the birds are being forced into smaller areas, and farmers and scientists are pointing toward the ACD-exacerbated drought as the culprit.

Over in Europe, common birds like the sparrow and skylark are in decline across the continent, having decreased by more than 420 million in the last three decades, according to a recent study.

A recent report from a global analytics firm described ACD as a “threat multiplier” for 32 farming-dependent nations, which, it said, now face an “extreme risk” of conflict or civil unrest over the next 30 years.

ACD has been added to the list of causes for fewer bees in the United Kingdom, according to new research. The study showed that the increase in global temperature could be disrupting the “synchronization” that has evolved over millennia between bees and the plants they pollinate.

Long referred to as the “lungs of the planet,” a stunning new report by Brazil’s leading scientists revealed how the Amazon rainforest has been degraded to the point where it is actually losing its ability to regulate weather systems.

Speaking of degradation, over 50 percent of China’s arable land is now degraded, according to the official state news agency Xinhua. This means that the country now has a reduced capacity to produce food for the world’s largest population, and ACD is named as one of the leading causes.

Lastly on the earth front, if you are feeling down about all the bad news about ACD, there’s good reason. Professor Camille Parmesan, an ACD researcher who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore for her work as a lead author of the Third Assessment Report of the IPCC, is blaming her depression on ACD.

“I don’t know of a single scientist that’s not having an emotional reaction to what is being lost,” Parmesan said in the National Wildlife Federation’s 2012 report, “The Psychological Effects of Global Warming on the United States: And Why the US Mental Health Care System is Not Adequately Prepared.” “It’s gotten to be so depressing that I’m not sure I’m going to go back to this particular site again,” she said in reference to an ocean reef she had studied since 2002, “because I just know I’m going to see more and more of it dead, and bleached, and covered with brown algae.”

Water

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission recently cancelled Maine’s shrimp season for the second straight year. A committee report said the 2014 spring shrimp survey showed the shrimp population for this year was at its lowest level in 31 years, and worse than last years, and attributed the dramatic decline in the shrimp population to rising ocean temperatures.

And these impacts aren’t just evident in the Northeast United States.

In the Northwest, bizarre sea life visitors are showing up as a result of historic warming occurring in the Northern Pacific Ocean. An ocean sunfish turned up in the net of some researchers in Alaskan waters. The ocean sunfish is usually found in the tropics or more temperate waters, and are incredibly rare in Alaska. A few days later, another showed up. “No one had ever talked about seeing one alive,” Wyatt Fournier, a research fish biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said. “Not only did we get two aboard in one week, but my commercial-fishing buddies started telling me they were bumping into them when fishing for salmon.”

The waters of Panama, which contain 290 square kilometers of coral reefs, are facing multiple threats, from increased marine traffic to pollution, but the worst is rising sea temperatures.

In the far north, a UK scientist has warned that melting Arctic ice is likely the cause of increasingly extreme weather in the United Kingdom, and that a more turbulent Arctic Ocean will impact currents like the Gulf Stream. This is particularly troubling when one considers the fact that the Arctic is warming at least twice as fast as the global average.

Speaking of melting ice, scientist Jon Riedel, who has been studying glaciers there for more than 30 years, announced that North Cascades National Park has lost roughly 50 percent of its glacier area since 1900, and added, “That’s pretty typical for mountain ranges around the world.” Riedel said that in the last few decades, glaciers in the Northwest have melted faster than ever before.

“The glaciers now seem to have melted back up to positions they haven’t been in for 4,000 years or more,” Riedel said, and went on to explain how natural influences alone could not possibly account for glacial retreat on such a scale. “As a scientist, every time I come back here, this place has changed,” he said.

Up in Alaska, the massive Harding Icefield on the Kenai Peninsula is showing dramatic signs of melting. According to measurements taken by scientists this fall, nearly 28 vertical feet of ice was lost. The Exit Glacier, which spills out of the ice field, has retreated more than in any other single year since annual mapping of its terminus began.

Among scientists, it is common knowledge that the Arctic is the “canary in the coal mine” of ACD, as it is warming faster than the rest of the planet, as aforementioned. Evidence of this appeared this past summer when temperatures soared by 7 degrees Celsius in Barrow on the north slope of the state. Scientists from the University of Alaska Fairbanks attribute the rise to ACD and the loss of Arctic sea ice, and point toward how the 7-degree Celsius increase blows a hole in international efforts aimed at preventing global temperatures from exceeding 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Gerd Wendler, the lead author of the study and a professor emeritus at the university’s International Arctic Research Center, said he was “astonished” at the findings, and told the Alaska Dispatch News: “I think I have never, anywhere, seen such a large increase in temperature over such a short period.”

As ACD continues to melt the Arctic sea ice and consistently pushes back its summertime boundaries to record-setting high latitudes, NASA has begun flying missions to study how these new developments will impact global weather.

Meanwhile down in the Southern Hemisphere, Sao Paulo in Brazil, Latin America’s largest metropolis, may soon run out of water. Given that this mega-city of 20 million residents and the country’s financial hub already is seeing many of its taps run dry, the future looks dire. At the time of this writing, the lakes that supply half of all the water to the city have been drained of 96 percent of their water capacity, as Brazil is in the midst of its worst drought in 80 years.

Looking eastward, the United Kingdom is on course to experience both one of the warmest and wettest years since record keeping began, generating fears that future droughts and flash floods will likely cost lives.

In the United States, with California now into the fourth year of its record-setting drought, the small farm town of Stratford is seeing its ground sink due to farmers having pumped so much water out of the ground that the water table below the town has fallen 100 feet in two years.

Adding insult to injury, NOAA recently released its Winter Outlook, which shows the drought in California to continue to intensify.

In fact, recent research by scientists from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography and the US Geological Survey show that California’s future droughts will be deeper and longer than even the current drought that is wracking the state.

A collection of maps on the topic of water use provide a clear picture of why the entire western United States is in deep trouble when it comes to future freshwater supplies.

In fact, the situation has progressed far enough along already that scientists are predicting that Utah will no longer have a snow skiing industry, since ACD will prevent snow from falling there by the end of this century.

Across the globe, the groundwater supply crisis is becoming so severe that the depletion of groundwater is now driving many conflicts around the globe, according to a leading NASA scientist.

Meanwhile, the city of Boston is reconsidering its relationship with the sea, since sea levels are rising and the land there is kinking. Hence, people there are investigating the possibility of copying Venice and Amsterdam, and making Boston a city of canals.

Given that US coastal cities are now flooding regularly during high tides, thanks in large part to rising seas from ACD, little has actually been done to defend them against the continuation of rising seas, and recent reports show that “nobody is truly ready.”

That said, Jakarta, the most populous city in Java, is sinking. The city has begun building a massive wall to try to stave off the rising seas that are already flooding homes nearly two miles from the coast.

Speaking of flooding, nearly 10 billion gallons of sewer overflows poured into southeastern Michigan’s waters during record-setting flooding in August, which sounded alarms about the deteriorating water quality in the Great Lakes hydrological system.

And Michigan is not alone in struggling with this problem. As storms continue to intensify due to ACD, sanitation departments throughout the US Midwest are struggling to keep apace with more frequent and intense runoff.

Lastly for this section, oceanographers recently reported that larger “dead zones,” (oxygen-depleted water) in the oceans are expected to intensify and grow due to ACD. According to the study, 94 percent of places where dead zones have been shown to exist are located in areas where average temperatures are expected to rise by approximately 4 degrees Fahrenheit by the turn of the century.

Air

US government meteorologists published a study illustrating yet another trend toward increasingly extreme weather events emerging in recent years. Their study found that tornadoes in the United States are increasingly coming in “swarms,” rather than as isolated twisters.

Recently, the first “big heat event” smashed Australian temperature records, when that country’s first major heat wave came more than a month ahead of the official start of summer. The October heat wave set daily maximum temperature records at more than 20 stations, in addition to the fact that the duration of the warmth was also exceptional, according to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

As aforementioned, the Amazon is in big trouble, which means of course the planet is, when it comes to the crumbling ecosystems’ impact on the planet. But another report, this one in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that the forests there are drying out due to lack of rainfall, causing yet more carbon to be emitted into the atmosphere, in what is yet another positive feedback loop resulting from ACD.

Lastly in this section, according to scientists from NASA and NOAA, the Antarctic ozone hole reached its annual peak in September, and the size of this year’s hole was 9.3 million square miles, an area roughly the size of the entire continent of North America.

Denial and Reality

In the United States, ACD-denial tactics never cease to amaze.

A libertarian think tank sued the White House, not exactly the bastion of ACD-mitigation action itself, for a video that tied ACD to last year’s “polar vortex” that raked much of the country with extreme low temperatures.

If you haven’t noticed, the “I’m not a scientist” meme, or variations thereof, has been the primary talking point for Republicans when it comes to ACD. When any group of politicians, lobbyists or corporate spokespeople begins saying the exact same thing, you know they are being coached.

Rupert Murdoch’s company is now concerned about ACD. The parent company of Fox News lost millions of dollars due to Superstorm Sandy, so now they are warning that ACD will likely bring even more extreme weather.

Immediately following the US midterm elections, with their new majority, Senate Republicans are targeting the already feeble federal government’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) – the incoming Senate majority leader – said he feels a “deep responsibility” to stop power plant regulations, and that his top priority is “to try to do whatever I can to get the EPA reined in.”

A recent article in the Toronto Star reminds us that geo-engineering schemes that are proposed to mitigate ACD are more like something out of a third-rate science fiction novel than something that would actually work, according to climate scientists.

The South Miami City Commission recently voted in favor of allowing Florida’s 23 southern counties to secede and create a new state called “South Florida.” This is a result of growing frustration and concern over rising sea levels and lack of ACD mitigation actions by the ACD-denying state leaders.

Another factor related to ACD is overpopulation – which tends to be shied away from most of the time, despite the obvious fact that more people consuming greater amounts of resources on an already far overtaxed planet is an equation that does not provide a happy ending. Finally, more folks are beginning to address overpopulation as another important mitigation method.

Inter Press Service recently reminded us how those populations which are already taking it on the chin from ACD in the form of massive floods, intense heat waves and rising seas are those who are the most vulnerable.

Lastly this month, in the wake of recent news of global emissions rising 2.3 percent in 2013 to set yet another record and marking the largest year-to-year increase in 30 years, the IPCC announced that the world isn’t moving anywhere near fast enough to have a chance at mitigating the impacts of ACD in any real way.

______________________________________________________________________________


Dahr Jamail

Dahr Jamail, a Truthout staff reporter, is the author of The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, (Haymarket Books, 2009), and Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches From an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq, (Haymarket Books, 2007). Jamail reported from Iraq for more than a year, as well as from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Turkey over the last ten years, and has won the Martha Gellhorn Award for Investigative Journalism, among other awards.

His fourth book, The Mass Destruction of Iraq: Why It Is Happening, and Who Is Responsible, co-written with William Rivers Pitt, is available now on Amazon. He lives and works in Washington State.