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

Posts Tagged ‘Environmental Catastrophe’

Reporting On A World Of Environmental Catastrophes – All In Just One Month

In Uncategorized on March 25, 2014 at 12:34 am

Oldspeak: “Climate change poses another significant challenge for the United States and the world at large. As greenhouse gas emissions increase, sea levels are rising, average global temperatures are increasing and severe weather patterns are accelerating. These changes, coupled with other global dynamics, including growing, urbanizing, more affluent populations, and substantial economic growth in India, China, Brazil, and other nations, will devastate homes, land, and infrastructure. Climate change may exacerbate water scarcity and lead to sharp increases in food costs. The pressures caused by climate change will influence resource competition while placing additional burdens on economies, societies and governance institutions around the world. These effects are threat multipliers that will aggravate stressors abroad such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability, and social tensions – conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence.” –U.S. Pentagon, 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review Report

“For weeks on end, the lead stories on the corporatocracy’s infotainment media industrial multiplexes have been the U.S./E.U./Corporatocracy fueled “crisis” in Ukraine and the disaster porn that is “The Disappearance Of Malaysian Airlines Flight…. Whatever”. The Pentagon of all entities is reporting more reality based news than alleged journalistic organizations.  Meanwhile the greatest threat to life on earth continues to be “debated” and ignored and no significant globally coordinated effort is being made to prepare for the devastating changes to come.  Hence the days of industrial civilization are numbered. Short analysis:  WE’RE FUCKED.”  -OSJ

By Dahr Jamail @ Truthout:

March 2014

When all the trees have been cut down,
when all the animals have been hunted,
when all the waters are polluted,
when all the air is unsafe to breathe,
only then will you discover you cannot eat money.
– Cree Prophecy

Earth

One-third of all the organic farmers in the United States are now reporting widespread contamination by genetically modified crops. Over half of the growers have had entire loads of their grain rejected due to their having unwittingly been contaminated by GMO’s.

Speaking of frankenfood, in Sri Lanka and South American, an herbicide developed by Monsanto, along with a phosphate fertilizer, are likely the causes of an epidemic of a mysterious kidney disease in the areas where rice and sugarcane are grown.

On the fossil fuel front, in Canada, large man-made lakes of oil sands mining waste are leaking into the Athabasca River, while “progress” is being made towards the building of two new giant pipelines that would rapidly expand Alberta’s tar sands project.

In Australia, it was recently revealed that the Australian “Environment Department” did not conduct an independent analysis of how much it would cost monetarily to dump dredged soil onto land before it granted permission to dump it on the Great Barrier Reef.

Given the ever-growing preponderance of our usage of electronics, all of us are morally obligated to look at these photos of Agbogbloshie, which was formerly a wetland in Accra, Ghana. Today, it is now the world’s largest e-waste dumpsite, where discarded computer monitors are used to build footbridges to cross rivers.

A new study has confirmed that a magnitude 5.7 earthquake in Oklahoma – one of the state’s biggest man-made quakes – was caused by fracking-linked wastewater injections.

Water

Even the depths of the oceans are now at risk.

Two and a half miles deep in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, mining companies are looking for ore deposits needed to keep feeding the industrial machine and continued production of “smart” phones. The number of companies looking to mine the pristine ocean depths has tripled in recent years, and the deputy secretary general of the International Seabed Authority had this to say of the ramping up of movement toward destroying ecosystems we hardly understand: “The amount of activity has expanded exponentially.”

Never mind that the rapacious machine that runs upon exponential growth has quite possibly already driven Anthropogenic Climate Disruption (ACD) past the point of no return, making short-term human extinction not out of the realm of possibility.

Like the rest of the planet, the oceans are being mined, drilled, dredged, polluted and irradiated.

Examples of this abound, but here are just a few.

The state of Alaska now wants the federal government to remove endangered species protections for humpback whales, so as to remove a hurdle for companies that want to explore the Arctic Coast for oil. Given that the Obama administration has provided no evidence that the president will make a decision that would prioritize environmental protection over corporate profit, humpback whales are in trouble. Even the Supreme Court is doing what it can to protect the major emitters of greenhouse gases.

The lunacy of Alaska’s decision comes into even clearer focus given the fact that this year’s Iditarod sled dog race is facing a minor problem – not enough snow.

A new study led by NASA researches shows that fresh water flowing from rivers into the Arctic Ocean is having a powerful impact on the extent of sea ice cover, since the warm water discharges accelerate the melting of sea ice near the coast. This melting also has a wider climate impact: It creates more open water, which is darker than ice and thus absorbs more heat from sunlight, further accelerating planetary warming.

Not surprisingly, in the Gulf of Mexico, dolphins that were exposed to BP’s oil and dispersants from what remains (to date) the largest marine oil disaster in US history, are suffering from a host of maladies, including lung disease and adrenal problems.

A new study published in Current Biology shows that small fragments of plastic waste are damaging the health of lugworms, which happen to be a key cog in the marine ecosystem.

A massive die-off of oysters and scallops off the coast of British Columbia has fishermen and seafood salespersons deeply troubled. Ocean acidification, a direct result of ACD, is suspected as the cause. Further south, Brazil’s shellfishing communities are now blighted by industrial pollution. “There’s this chemical product in the water,” fisherwoman Edinilda de Ponto dos Carvalhos said of the phenomenon. “It has no smell, but it kills everything.”

Off the coast of South Africa, 4,000 penguins and hundreds of seabird nests were oiled when a fishing trawler carrying approximately 2,500 gallons of diesel fuel ran aground less than three miles from the Betty’s Bay Marine Protected Area.

Back in the United States, a recent oil spill closed down a 65-mile stretch of the Mississippi River that included the Port of New Orleans. The Mississippi, of course, flows into the fragile marsh, where 90 percent of all the organisms in the Gulf of Mexico spend some part of their lives.

Drinking water problems continue to grow all over North America.

People in Clearfield County, Pennsylvania, are trying to stop the state from spreading sewage sludge on soils. The state calls the sewage sludge “biosolids” and says it will enrich the soil and improve the overall health of the land and animals. The people are complaining of the stench of the sewage, in addition to the fact that it is making them sick.

Speaking of feces, factory farms of pigs are poisoning Iowa’s drinking water, due to the fact that millions of pigs are jammed into overcrowded barns across the state. While they are being fattened for slaughter, they are also breeding superbugs, which can find their way into the groundwater.

Meanwhile in Delaware, the water quality of the creeks, rivers and streams running through the state is so bad that little of it is even considered healthy. In fact, 94 percent of the state’s rivers and streams are so polluted, fish are unable to thrive. Humans are even told not to swim in 85 percent of them.

In West Virginia, the January chemical spill that contaminated drinking water for 300,000 West Virginians around Charleston garnered immense media coverage. However, most Americans remain unaware of the fact that many people in rural West Virginia living in places outside the reach of the spill had already been living without drinkable tap water for months, and in some places, years due to contamination from the mining industry.

Of course the rapacious march for ever more oil drilling continues apace, with prospectors now hoping to find their next big gusher in south Florida’s fragile Everglades, whose wetlands are habitats for more than 60 threatened and endangered species, along with the fact that they play an integral role in providing around 7 million residents in south Florida with their drinking water.

As the industrial growth society continues its destructive trundle of consumption and pollution in the name of increasing profit for next quarter’s financial statement, the signs of ACD continue unabated.

Low-lying countries are, of course, already losing land to rising oceans, with even greater displacement coming soon. A recent report shows that Indonesia will likely lose an estimated 1,500 islands to rising oceans by the year 2050. But before that happens, likely by 2030, the country’s International Airport, which serves the capital, will be completely under water. In fact, Jakarta, with 40 percent of its land below sea level, is sinking and will see all of its northern districts turn into lakes by the time the airport is under water.

The flipside of rising seas is increasing drought and/or flash floods on the continents.

In northern India, the once massive Tawi River used to flow through the city of Jammu so powerfully that residents had to take boats to cross it. Today, the river is barely knee deep for most of the year and has turned into a dumping ground for untreated city waste.

Ongoing research published recently in the journal Nature Climate Change shows us that the number of days with extreme heat will continue to increase even when the overall average does not. And, disturbingly, it is these days of heat extremes, not the average daily temperatures, that matter most when it comes to impact on wildlife, farming and humans.

Another recent report forecasts California’s climate to continue to become hotter and drier, aside from occasional torrential rains and flash floods. The state will continue to get less and less water from an ever-decreasing snowpack in the Sierra Nevada, and the Pacific Ocean will continue rising and consuming the state’s coastal areas.

Weather extremes, the new normal due to ACD, are visible daily around the globe.

Malaysia, a country that usually brings to mind tropical rainforests and beaches, now finds millions of residents having to ration their water due to a scorching drought.

Sri Lanka is also in the midst of an extreme heat wave and accompanying drought. Fears there continue to mount as increasing power cuts and interruptions to the country’s water supply due to low reservoir levels worsen.

The flip side of this part of the climate coin is deluges of rain and the flooding that comes with it.

Residents on Caribbean islands hit by massive storms over Christmas are still struggling to recover, as are folks in the UK, who have recently experienced the worst flooding in the history of the country. A recent study brings no solace to UK residents, as it shows that the frequency of severe flooding across Europe is set to double by 2050, a phenomenon which will bring a fivefold increase in annual economic losses resulting from flooding.

Australia can expect the other extreme, as the recent State of the Climate report by Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology shows the country being hit by even more extreme heat and high fire danger and the southern regions of the country drying up. The report says these trends will only continue to accelerate as the planet continues heating up and that the projected increase in the number of extremely hot days is underlined by the fact that there were more extreme heat days in 2013 than in the entire 1910-1940 period.

This is particularly bad news, given that the current drought in Queensland is officially the worst and most widespread on record, with 15 more districts and shires in Australia recently declaring drought.

A coal seam gas project in Australia has contaminated a nearby aquifer with uranium at levels 20 times higher than those set by safe drinking water guidelines.

Regarding the oceans, ACD has advanced enough already that even the ocean dynamics of Antarctica are being disrupted, according to another recent study. The report cites the example of a massive ice-free region the size of New Zealand, which used to be a frozen part of the ice blanket of the southern ocean surrounding the ice continent, but has recently disappeared from the region.

Meanwhile at the other pole, new research shows that the Arctic sea ice season has been shortening by five days per decade, due to the formation of sea ice being delayed by warming weather. The study, which appeared in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, indicates that the Arctic Ocean is absorbing more of the sun’s energy in the summer due to shrinking ice cover, and this is leading to the delayed appearance of the autumn sea ice.

Air

Is it not amazing that humans construct massive cities, populate them by the millions, then live amid pollution so intense it kills us?

Beijing is perhaps the best example, being the worst-case scenario of countless smog-choked cities around the planet. Scientists have deemed the air there to be so bad the place is “barely suitable” for living. Last year’s monitoring of Chinese cities showed that more than 95 percent of them failed to meet environmental standards.

Air pollution from coal already kills over 1,000,000 people per year in China, and in vast swaths of the country, life expectancy is already reduced by at least five years.

In fact, Chinese scientists now warn that the entire country’s air pollution is so bad that it resembles a nuclear winter that is even slowing the photosynthesis in plants, which of course will be catastrophic to the country’s food supply for its massive population.

Amazingly, the Chinese state is deploying drones that will spray chemicals into the smog, causing it to solidify and fall to the ground, as part of their “war on pollution.”

In Australia, residents in the Latrobe valley are protesting because smoke from a nearby coalmine fire has blanketed their area for several weeks, bringing the town to a standstill and turning the town into a “national disaster” since the pollution reached levels more than 22 times above the recommended safe levels, triggering a health alert.

Then there are the other ongoing, unintended consequences.

Researchers recently found an ancient “giant virus” that was, emphasis on “was,” buried deep within the Siberia permafrost. The virus had been previously untouched for more than 30,000 years, but now has been revived. Scientists, of course, blame ACD and “industrial activities” for bringing this and other potential pathogens to the surface.

Another pathogen, the West Nile virus, is now expected to increase in incidence, also due to advancing ACD.

Warmer temperatures are also now causing malaria to spread to new altitudes in the African and South American highlands, traditionally havens from the disease, scientists say.

A doctor in the United States is now proclaiming that ACD constitutes a public health emergency, because it is causing an increase in asthma, hay fever, ADHD, blue baby syndrome and gastroenteritis.

Fire

Radiation from the ongoing Fukushima nuclear disaster is being tracked, and a recent study shows radioactive cesium from the Japanese plant reaching the Pacific Coast of North America by April.

Fukushima remains on the forefront of many folks’ minds because it is an ongoing disaster, and its direct impact on our health is obvious. However, we tend to forget how much radiation has already been bombed into the oceans.

Those who have been bombed, however, haven’t forgotten.

Residents of the Marshall Islands recently marked 60 years since the United States dropped a hydrogen bomb on the Bikini Atoll, causing islanders to be exiled from their homeland. Islanders, rightly remain too fearful to go back because of the nuclear contamination.

The United States conducted six nuclear tests there in all, leaving hundreds of forgotten victims among the islanders to live with ongoing health effects and painful memories of loved ones lost from radiation exposure.

Closer to home for those living in the United States, “significant construction flaws” in some of the “newer” double-walled storage tanks at Washington state’s Hanford nuclear waste complex could lead to additional leaks of some of the worst radioactive waste at the most contaminated nuclear site in the country.

Not to be outdone, the only nuclear waste repository in the United States, located in Carlsbad, New Mexico, has an ongoing radiation leak. But that has not stopped the brilliant minds running the repository from pushing to obtain even more nuclear waste.

Japan is struggling with ongoing radiation problems, as more than 500 tons of radioactive waste from Fukushima that is being stored in Tokyo is threatening residents.

Shockingly, all of this ongoing pollution and dramatic evidence of ongoing ACD are happening amid what US and UK scientists recently described as a brief slowdown in global warming. Everything you’ve just read is occurring despite the planet being in the midst of a “pause” in a longer-term trend of increasing temperatures, according to Britain’s Royal Society and the US National Academy of Sciences.

Their joint announcement added that the current “slowdown” in the pace of global warming since a peak in 1998 “does not invalidate our understanding of long-term changes in global temperature arising from human-induced changes in greenhouse gases.”

Yet, there remain those who have chosen to remain willfully ignorant of ACD and ignore the evidence from around the globe that is slapping us in the face every day. Those folks aren’t likely to believe the pedantic scientific data produced by sophomoric institutions like Britain’s Royal Society or the US National Academy of Sciences.

Hence, they are also unlikely to believe anything that comes out of the “progressive” and “left-leaning” US Pentagon, which just released its 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review Report, which states:

“Climate change poses another significant challenge for the United States and the world at large. As greenhouse gas emissions increase, sea levels are rising, average global temperatures are increasing and severe weather patterns are accelerating. These changes, coupled with other global dynamics, including growing, urbanizing, more affluent populations, and substantial economic growth in India, China, Brazil, and other nations, will devastate homes, land, and infrastructure. Climate change may exacerbate water scarcity and lead to sharp increases in food costs. The pressures caused by climate change will influence resource competition while placing additional burdens on economies, societies and governance institutions around the world. These effects are threat multipliers that will aggravate stressors abroad such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability, and social tensions – conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence.”

Every single piece of information you’ve just read is only from the last month.

This is what catastrophic ACD looks like.

This information may lack the dramatic background music and thrilling scenes that would accompany the Hollywood blockbuster movie that many in the United States might expect advancing ACD to look like. However, it is real. It is happening right now. And it is time for all of us to pay attention.

 

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.

Chomsky: The Richest Countries Are Racing Us Towards Disaster While ‘Primitive’ Societies Are Trying to Stop It

In Uncategorized on January 6, 2014 at 8:53 pm

Noam Chomsky, the Salon interview: Governments are power systems, trying to sustain power

Oldspeak: “The growing threat of environmental catastrophe, which we are racing towards as if we were determined to fall off a precipice… In the case of environmental catastrophe it’s not so clear that there will even be a way to control or maybe reverse it. Maybe. But, the longer we wait, the more we defer taking measures, the worse it’s going to be…It’s quite striking to see that those in the lead of trying to do something about this catastrophe are what we call “primitive” societies. The first nations in Canada, indigenous societies in central America, aboriginals in Australia. They’ve been on the forefront of trying to prevent the disaster that we’re rushing towards. It’s beyond irony that the richest most powerful countries in the world are racing towards disaster while the so-called primitive societies are the ones in the forefront of trying to avert it.” -Noam Chomsky

“When one understands that so-called “advanced” societies have completely decoupled from the ecology and regard the destruction of irreplaceable natural capital as mere “externalities” and not vital parts of the web of life to be respected, sustained and cared for while so-called “primitive” societies thrive in intimate daily contact with the ecology and know something is terribly wrong;  it’s not ironic atal.  In advanced societies, infinite growth and profit are paramount, while in primitive societies symbiotic equilibrial coexistence in the ecology is paramount. While advanced societies dominate on this planet, we can expect more of the same heedless careening toward ecological catastrophe and mass extinction.” -OSJ

By Natasha Leonard @ Salon:

In his 85th year, political theorist and linguist Noam Chomsky remains a fiercely busy polymath and dedicated activist. Indeed, his schedule is so demanding, our interview had to be booked a good number of weeks in advance and my time on the phone with the MIT professor was sandwiched between another press interview and another one of his many commitments.

Happily, though, speaking with Chomsky in late December gave occasion to look back on this year — a year of revelation and obfuscation regarding U.S. government activity.

Chomsky told Natasha Lennard about his thoughts on the slew of NSA leaks, the future of the media, the neo-liberalization of the education system and the principle operations of governments. And, of course, the earth hurtling towards its own demise.

Q: This year’s revelations about the scope of surveillance-state activity are certainly not the first major leaks you’ve seen draw scrutiny on government spying. Is there something particular or unique, in your view, about the NSA revelations?

In principle it’s not an innovation; things like this have been going on for a long time. The scale and the incredibly ambitious character of the surveillance and control is something new. But it’s the kind of thing one should expect. The history goes back a long way. So, for example, if you go back a century ago, right after the U.S. invasion of the Philippines — a brutal invasion that killed a couple hundred thousand people — there was a problem for the U.S. of pacification afterwards. What do you do to control the population to prevent another nationalist uprising? There’s a very good study of this by Alfred McCoy, a Philippines scholar at University of Wisconsin, and what he shows is that the U.S. used the most sophisticated technology of the day to develop a massive system of survelliance, control, disruption to undermine any potential opposition and to impose very tight controls on the population which lasted for a long time and in many ways the Philippines is still suffering from this. But he also points out the technology was immediately transferred home. Woodrow Wilson’s administration used it in their “Red Scare” a couple years later. The British used it, too.

Q: Do you think revelations about sprawling surveillance have prompted much significant self-reflection from the American public about the workings of our state apparatus and our use of technology?

Governments are power systems. They are trying to sustain their power and domination over their populations and they will use what means are available to do this. By now the means are very sophisticated and extensive and we can expect them to increase. So for instance, if you read technology journals you learn that in robotics labs for some years there have been efforts to develop small drones, what they call “fly-sized drones,” which can intrude into a person’s home and be almost invisible and carry out constant surveillance. You can be sure that the military is very much interested in this, and the intelligence systems as well, and will soon be using it.

We’re developing technologies that will be used by our own governments and by commercial corporations and are already being used to maximize information for themselves for control and domination. That’s the way power systems work. Of course, they’ve always played the security card. But I think one should be very cautious about such claims. Every government pleads security for almost anything it’s doing, so since the plea is predictable it essentially carries no information. If after the event the power system claims security, that doesn’t mean it’s actually a functioning principle. And if you look at the record, you discover that security is generally a pre-text and security is not a high priority of governments. If By that I mean the security of the population — security of the power system itself and the domestic interests it represents, yes, that’s a concern. But security of the population is not.

Q: You’ve often highlighted flaws in mainstream media’s insidious institutional fealty during your career — notably in your book “Manufacturing Consent” [1988]. What do you think of the current state of the U.S. media? Do you have much hope for new ventures like Glenn Greenwald’s, which has already promised to aggressively take on government and corporate wrongdoing?

The availability of the Internet has offered a much easier access than before to a wide variety of information and opinion and so on. But I don’t think that is a qualitative shift. It is easier to go to the Internet than to go to the library, undoubtedly. But the shift from no libraries to the existence libraries was a much greater shift than what we’ve seen with the Internet’s development. [The Internet] gives more access — that part is good — but on the other hand, it is combined with a process of undermining independent inquiry and reporting within the media themselves. There’s plenty to criticize about the mass media but they are the source of regular information about a wide range of topics. You can’t duplicate that on blogs. And that’s declining. Local newspapers, I need not inform you, are becoming very much narrower in their global outreach, even their national outreach.  And that’s the real meat of inquiry of information gathering. We can criticize its character and the biases that enter into it, and the institutional constraints on it, but nevertheless it’s of inestimable importance. I’ve never questioned that. And that’s diminishing at the same time as accesses to a wider range of materials is increasing. The Greenwald initiative is a very promising one. He himself has had an impressive career of independent thinking, inquiry, analysis and reporting. I think there is good reason to have a good deal of trust in his judgement. Where it will go, we don’t know, it hasn’t started yet so it is just speculation.

I think that, for example,  the New York Times will remain what’s called the “newspaper of record” for the foreseeable future. I don’t see any competitor arising which has the range of resources, of overseas bureaus and so on again, I think there is plenty to criticize about it, but it is nevertheless an invaluable resource. There are many other independent developments which are quite significant of themselves so it’s valuable to have say Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now or Salon or any other independent voice. But I don’t see any indication that there is going to be some radically new form of gathering, reporting and analyzing information.

Q: As an academic and a political figure, you stand in an interesting position to observe shifting trends in the academy. How, in your view, have spiking tuition fees, sky-rocketing student debt and a corporatization of academic institution affected higher education? What’s your outlook on shifts in the education system in general in this country?

Well for me personally, it hasn’t been a change, but there are changes and developments in the higher education system and also K-12 which I think are extremely threatening and harmful. To keep it at the higher education: Over the past generation — roughly speaking the neoliberal period — there has been a substantial shift towards corporatization of the universities, towards imposing of the business model on higher education. Part of that is what you’ve mentioned, tuition rises. There has been an enormous increase in tuition. I don’t think you can give an economic argument for that. Take a look at the comparative evidence. Right to our south, Mexico, which is a relatively poor country, has a quite respectable higher education system, and it’s free. The country that consistently ranks among the highest in educational achievement is Finland. A rich country, but education is free. Germany, education is free. France, education is free.

Take a look at the United States: Go back fifty years to the early post-war decades. It was a much poorer country than it is now, but for a large portion of the population, education was free. The GI Bill provided education for a great number of people who never would have been able to go to college otherwise. It was highly beneficial for them, and highly beneficial to the country in terms of the contributions they were able to make in terms of the economy and culture and so on. And it was essentially free. Even private universities costs were very slight by today’s standards. And that was a much poorer country than it is now. So in general I think that the economic arguments for the sharp rise in tuitions in the United States and to a lesser extent in England and a few other places, one can’t offer a persuasive economic argument for that, these are policy decisions. They are related to other changes that have taken place, so for example over the same period there has been an enormous expansion of administration in universities. The proportion of the University budget that goes to administration has skyrocketed…. This is all part of the imposition of a business model which has an effect also on curricular choices and decisions.

Similar things are happening at K-12 level with, first of all, the underfunding of schools, which is very serious as is the demeaning of teachers, the undermining of teacher’s respect and independence. The pressure to teach to tests, which is the worst possible form of education. In fact most of us have been through the school system have plenty of experience with courses we weren’t very much interested in, we had to study for an exam, you study for the exam and a couple weeks later you forget what the course was about. This is a critique that goes way back to the enlightenment, where they condemned the model of teaching as analogous as pouring water into a vessel — and a very leaky vessel, as we all know. This undermines creativity, independence, the joy of discovery, the capacity to work together with others creatively — all of the things that a decent educational system should foster. It’s going in the opposite direction, which is quite harmful. So there is a lot to reverse if we want to get back to a much healthier system of education and preservation and growth of cultural achievement.

Q: What other contemporary issues particularly concern you? Do you find signs of hope or resistance around these issues that, perhaps, you finding heartening?

Well, we can make a long list, including the things we’ve talked about, but it’s also worth remembering that, hovering over the things we discussed, are two major problems. These are issues that seriously threaten the possibility of decent human survival. One of them is the growing threat of environmental catastrophe, which we are racing towards as if we were determined to fall off a precipice, and the other is the threat of nuclear war, which has not declined, in fact it’s very serious and in many respects is growing. The second one we know, at least in principle, how to deal with it. There is a way of significantly reducing that threat; the methods are not being pursued but we know what they are. In the case of environmental catastrophe it’s not so clear that there will even be a way to control of maybe reverse it. Maybe. But, the longer we wait, the more we defer taking measures, the worse it’s going to be.

It’s quite striking to see that those in the lead of trying to do something about this catastrophe are what we call “primitive” societies. The first nations in Canada, indigenous societies in central America, aboriginals in Australia. They’ve been on the forefront of trying to prevent the disaster that we’re rushing towards. It’s beyond irony that the richest most powerful countries in the world are racing towards disaster while the so-called primitive societies are the ones in the forefront of trying to avert it.

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com.

Scientists Warn ‘Mass Extinction’ In Seas May Be Underway

In Uncategorized on October 7, 2013 at 8:28 pm

Oldspeak: “Humankind faces an immediate and pressing choice between exerting ecological restraint and allowing global ecological catastrophe….as with terrestrial ecosystems, humankind has been expanding the natural capital of the ocean with little restraint…. although concealed beneath the waves, the evidence of wholesale degradation and destruction of the marine realm is clear, made manifest by the collapse of entire fisheries and the growth of deoxygenated dead zones, for example. The cumulative result of our actions is a serial decline in the ocean’s health and resilience; it is becoming demonstrably less able to survive the pressures exerted upon it, and this will become even more evident as the added pressures of climate change exacerbate the situation…The belief among scientists is that the window of opportunity to take action is narrow. There is little time left in which we can still act to prevent irreversible, catastrophic changes to marine ecosystems as we see them today…. Failure to do so will cause such large-scale changes to the ocean, and to the overall planetary system it supports, that we may soon find ourselves without the natural capital and ecosystem services necessary to maintain sustainable economies and societies as we know them, even in affluent countries…Without significant changes in the policies that influence human interactions with the marine environment, the current rate of ecosystem change and collapse will accelerate and direct consequences will be felt by all societies. Without decisive and effective action, no region or country will be immune from the socioeconomic upheaval and environmental catastrophe that will take place – possibly within the span of the current generation and certainly by the end of the century. It is likely to be a disaster that challenges human civilisation” –International Programme on the State of the Ocean Report (2013)

This is no small thing. The scientists note that each of the earth’s five known mass extinctions was preceded by at least one of the “deadly trio”—acidification, warming and deoxygenation—and said they fear that “the next mass extinction” of sea life is already underway, the first in some 55 million years.” –Scott Martelle

“The Situation couldn’t be more clear. The “deadly trio”  that preceded all other mass extinctions are in full bloom across the globe There is a very narrow window for possibly averting global ecological catastrophe. Yet if you spend any time watching fossil fuel and bankster corporation financed infotainement outlets, the wholly manufactured crises of ” U.S. Government “Shutdown” (except for 90% of military personnel btw) and “debt ceiling debate” are the most dire threats to humanity. And still we ever more “drill baby drill” permanently destroying countless watersheds. Untold species of life going extinct. Less oxygen in the seas and air than pre-industrial times as we relentlessly cut down the ancient forests that clean our air for paper to blow our noses and wipe our asses. This is not sustainable. Seems like substantive change will not come until it’s far too late to matter” -OSJ

Related Story:

Life Or Death in the Open Seas

By Scott Martelle @ Truthdig:

Remember the articles about how the ocean was absorbing more carbon and heat, giving us a slight reprieve from the effects of global warming? Not so good for the ocean, it turns out. Scientists from the International Programme on the State of the Ocean warn in a new report that the seas are changing much more rapidly than previously thought, and becoming increasingly inhospitable to life.

The ocean is shielding us from the worst effects of accelerating climate change by absorbing excess CO2 and heat from the atmosphere. The twin effects of this — acidification and ocean warming — are combining with increased levels of deoxygenation, caused by nutrient run-off from agriculture near the coast, and by climate change offshore, to produce what has become known as the ocean’s ‘deadly trio’ of threats whose impacts are potentially far greater because of the interaction of one on another. The scale and rate of this change is unprecedented in Earth’s known history and is exposing organisms to intolerable and unpredictable evolutionary pressure.

This is no small thing. The scientists note that each of the earth’s five known mass extinctions was preceded by at least one of the “deadly trio”—acidification, warming and deoxygenation—and said they fear that “the next mass extinction” of sea life is already underway, the first in some 55 million years. Given the role of the ocean in the worldwide ecosystem, from the plankton that absorb sun energy to the fish we eat—more about that in a moment—the rapid poisoning of the seas will have grave consequences for nearly all species. “These impacts will have cascading consequences for marine biology, including altered food web dynamics and the expansion of pathogens,” the report said.

Some of these conclusions were contained in a 2011 IPSO report, but the new one says the changes underway are occurring at a much faster and more intense rate than previously believed.

And then there’s the overfishing and poor fisheries management to add another stressor to the biological health of the seas:

Continued overfishing is serving to further undermine the resilience of ocean systems, and contrary to some claims, despite some improvements largely in developed regions, fisheries management is still failing to halt the decline of key species and damage to the ecosystems on which marine life depends. In 2012 the UN FAO determined that 70% of world fish populations are unsustainably exploited, of which 30% have biomass collapsed to less than 10% of unfished levels. A recent global assessment of compliance with Article 7 (fishery management) of the 1995 FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, awarded 60% of countries a “fail” grade, and saw no country identified as being overall “good.”

They offer some potential steps to lessen the impact, but given the lack of international response to the looming ecological crisis, don’t expect much action in this issue, either. Still, the scientists says the world community should:

—Cut global carbon dioxide emissions enough to limit the global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees Celsius. They note that “current targets for carbon emission reductions are insufficient in terms of ensuring coral reef survival and other biological effects of acidification.” And they say that current models don’t include added effects on the atmosphere from methane release from a melted permafrost and coral dieback, which “mean the consequences for human and ocean life could be even worse than presently calculated.”

—Emphasize small-scale fisheries, seek regional cooperation for management of shared environments and ban “destructive fishing gear” with laws that are enforced.

—“Build a global infrastructure for high seas governance that is fit-for-purpose. Most importantly, secure a new implementing agreement for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction under the auspices of” the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.