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

Posts Tagged ‘Unsustainable Resource Consumption’

The Mother Of All Catch 22s: Industrial Civilization Threatens All Life On The Planet

In Uncategorized on May 27, 2015 at 2:10 pm

Oldspeak:”This piece is originally titled “Capitalism Threatens All Life On The Planet”. The interviewee would say it more like the title I gave it. Focusing the blame on Capitalism gives the impression that everything would be ok if we just went another way, with another economic system. It assumes the economic system is the key to “fixing this”, as if the economic system is our primary concern. It’s just not so. It’s is a “civilization” level predicament we find ourselves that has no fix. We’re long past the point of dealing with this existential threat in any meaningful way. It’s time we accept this. This is where we are at this moment. Damned if we do, damned if we don’t. If we continue on, business as usual, we’re fucked. If we continue on with “conservation”/”mitigation”/or “green energy” market-based strategies, we’re fucked. If we stopped and went indigenous today, we’re fucked. We can talk around and bargain about and deny this stark reality until we’re blue in the face, but As Led Zeppelin opined  “The Song Remains The Same.” There is no good outcome for Humans here kids. Too many humans (this one included) are utterly dependent on Industrial Civilization, which has brought about Earth’s 6th Mass Extinction and have no interest in changing that state of affairs measurably. We can only use 2.1 Earth’s worth of resources every year for so much longer.  Resources and tolerable habitat are dwindling faster than we realize. The extinction train is rollin and it ain’t got no breaks… Enjoy the ride, doing the least harm, with as much love and compassion as you can.” -OSJ

By Dylan Murphy @ The People’s Voice:

“Let’s be honest. The activities of our economic and social system are killing the planet. Even if we confine ourselves merely to humans, these activities are causing an unprecedented privation, as hundreds of millions of people-and today more than yesterday, with probably more tomorrow-go their entire lives with never enough to eat. Yet curiously, none of this seems to stir us to significant action. And when someone does too stridently point out these obvious injustices, the response by the mass of the people seems so often to be . . . a figurative if not physical blow to the gut, leading inevitably to a destruction of our common future.” -Derek Jensen, The Culture of Make Believe

Tomorrow you will wake up and may well have a hot shower to start your day. Then you will go to your kitchen and use a variety of electrical devices to prepare breakfast. If you are lucky enough to have a job then you will travel to work in a car or use public transport. All of this activity requires the use of finite energy resources while producing varying amounts of carbon dioxide. According to the people at the World Wildlife Fund I alone need 2.19 planets to sustain my lifestyle. http://footprint.wwf.org.uk/.

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The unsustainable lifestyle that people lead is based upon the ever increasing consumption of finite resources which is destroying the natural world at in increasing rate of knots. The extinction of 200 species a day is just one manifestation of how capitalism and the industrial civilization it has spawned is killing the planet.

Critics may well say why are you so pessimistic? All we need to do is improve energy conservation and introduce renewable energy sources on a mass scale and everything will be fine and we can keep on enjoying our turbo consumerist lifestyle. Tim Garrett an associate professor of climate sciences at Utah University has exposed this belief as nothing short of wishful thinking:

“Making civilization more energy efficient simply allows it to grow faster and consume more energy,” says Garrett. “I’m just saying it’s not really possible to conserve energy in a meaningful way because the current rate of energy consumption is determined by the unchangeable past of economic production. If it feels good to conserve energy, that is fine, but there shouldn’t be any pretense that it will make a difference.”

Professor Garrett makes the controversial point that carbon dioxide emissions, which are a major cause of runaway climate change, can only be stabilized by a complete collapse of the global industrial economy or society builds the equivalent of one nuclear reactor per day.

“Stabilization of carbon dioxide emissions at current rates will require approximately 300 gigawatts of new non-carbon-dioxide-emitting power production capacity annually – approximately one new nuclear power plant (or equivalent) per day,” Garrett says. “Physically, there are no other options without killing the economy.”

Every week new scientific reports are published that note how industrial civilization is driving us towards catastrophic climate change. Last week the the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, announced that March was the first month to surpass global carbon dioxide levels of 400 parts per million since measurements began. This is driving us towards the 2 degree rise in temperature that is seen by many as the upper limit for the planet. In the same week a new study was published in Nature Climate Change which reveals that sea level rise rates are speeding up. This poses a threat to the one billion people who live along shore lines around the world.

Runaway climate change is already having a massive impact all over the world. California is experiencing its worst drought in 1200 years. Professor Jay Famiglietti, from the University of California, Irvine, has revealed how California has only one year of water supply stored in its reservoirs and needs to start immediate water rationing.

Corporate politicians all over the world are beholden to their big business paymasters and so keep on glossing over or ignoring the issues. Meanwhile, the corporate media tries to lull the population into a false sense of security with its endless stories full of hopium that science and technology will save the day.

I spoke to Guy McPherson who is professor emeritus of natural resources and the environment at the University of Arizona, where he taught for twenty years. He is the author of a dozen books and has had hundreds of articles published on the consequences of our fossil fuel addiction: catastrophic climate change leading to near term human extinction. Guy lives in an off the grid straw bale house where he practices sustainable organic farming and working with members of his local community where a gift economy is in operation.

1) Many people believe that catastrophic climate change can be averted if we adopt the following measures as a matter of urgency on a global scale: energy conservation measures, stopping the use of fossil fuels and nuclear together with the mass use of renewables. Would such measures help avert catastrophic climate change?

No, they would not, for many reasons. First and foremost, civilization is a heat engine, as pointed out in Tim Garrett’s work. In addition, as I’ve written here, the notion of a Third Industrial Revolution is seriously flawed: http://transitionvoice.com/2013/11/hopium-for-the-masses-renewable-energy-edition/

2) Is geo-engineering a possible solution to global warming?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) admits global warming is irreversible without geoengineering in a The IPCC is among the most conservative scientific bodies on the planet, and their reports are “significantly ‘diluted’ under political pressure.” On 22 April 2014, Truth-out correctly headlines their assessment, “Intergovernmental Climate Report Leaves Hopes Hanging on Fantasy Technology.” Time follows up two days later with a desperate headline, “NASA Chief: Humanity’s Future Depends On Mission To Mars” (first up: greenhouses on Mars). As pointed out in the 5 December 2013 issue of Earth System Dynamics, known strategies for geoengineering are unlikely to succeed (“climate geo-engineering cannot simply be used to undo global warming“). “Attempts to reverse the impacts of global warming by injecting reflective particles into the stratosphere could make matters worse,” according to research published in the 8 January 2014 issue of Environmental Research Letters. In addition, as described in the December 2013 issue of Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, geoengineering may succeed in cooling the Earth, it would also disrupt precipitation patterns around the world. Furthermore, “risk of abrupt and dangerous warming is inherent to the large-scale implementation of SRM” (solar radiation management), as pointed out in the 17 February 2014 issue of Environmental Research Letters. About a week later comes this line from research published in the 25 February 2014 issue of Nature Communication: “schemes to Finally, in a blow to technocrats published online in the 25 June 2014 issue of Nature Climate Change, a large and distinguished group of international researchers concludes geo-engineering will not stop climate change. The U.S. National Academy of Sciences piles on with a report issued 10 February 2015, concluding geoengineering is not a viable solution for the climate predicament. As it turns out, the public isn’t impressed, either: Research published in the 12 January 2014 issue of Nature Climate Change “reveals that the overall public evaluation of climate engineering is negative.” Despite pervasive American ignorance about science, the public correctly interprets geo-engineering in the same light as the scientists, and contrary to the techno-optimists.

3) In your work you talk about feedback loops that have already been set in motion that will have very detrimental effects upon the planet. Could you explain how feedback loops will have a devastating effect upon the living planet?

These self-reinforcing feedback loops, or “positive feedbacks,” feed upon themselves. For example, methane released from the Arctic Ocean heats the region, hence the ocean. As a result, methane is release more rapidly from the ocean. The process continues until a negative feedback overwhelms the process.

Many of these feedback loops have been triggered. They are contributing to a rapid rise in global-average temperature. The relatively slow rise in global-average temperature to date has outstripped the ability of organisms to keep up: The rate of evolution trails the rate of climate change by a factor of 10,000, according to paper in the August 2013 issue of Ecology Letters. If plants cannot keep up with the ongoing, gradual rate of change, we can only imagine the destruction of the living planet now that abrupt climate change has been triggered.

The Sixth Great Extinction is proceeding very rapidly. We’re on track to exceed the rate of extinction during all prior events, including the Great Dying from about 250 million years ago. During that extinction event, more than 90% of the species on the planet were driven to extinction.

4) When the issue of near term human extinction arising from catastrophic climate change is raised with many people they get very defensive. Reactions range from ridicule suggesting that you are crazy to outright hostility. Why do you think people often react this way?

I suspect they are afraid. We’ve grown up during a time of enormous privilege. The technology surrounding us is astonishing: It seems we can fix anything with a simple app on our cell phones!

The race for technology has overwhelmed the living planet. Already, according to an August 2010 report from the United Nations, the rate of extinction is 150-200 species per day. Industrial civilization allows us to foul the air, dirty the water, and erode the soil into the ocean while communicating in real time across the globe.

The race for technology has overwhelmed our sense of humanity. Most people I know love civilization, which destroys life on Earth. And they especially love industrial civilization and the resulting toys.

5) It is clear that the capitalist class across the globe have neither the intention nor the intention nor the knowledge of how to stop catastrophic climate change. The pursuit of hydraulic fracking, tar sands, nuclear energy, geo-engineering all reveal how the capitalist system is blind to the pursuit of profit at all costs. We cannot place any faith in corporate politicians of any stripe to help ordinary people cope with the effects of climate change as it gets worse and worse. Who should ordinary people turn to for help in coping with climate change?

The corporate governments and the corporate media are not interested in we, the people. They are interested in profits for the corporations.

As individuals and as a species, I doubt we have much time left on the planet. I recommend passionately pursuing a life of excellence rooted in love. Identify what you love. Pursue it, with passion. Throw off the shackles of a culture gone seriously awry. Along the way, you’ll be viewed as insane. Most professional psychotherapists, embedded in an omnicidal culture, will provide little help.

Find your tribe. Spend time with those you love. Love the ones you’re with.

6) Tim Garrett of Utah University has done some very valuable research into runaway climate change. Could you summarize the research of Professor Garrett and explain its implications for us all?

Garrett’s work is published in refereed journal articles, the “gold standard” of science. His research points out that only collapse of civilization prevents runaway greenhouse. It does not point out that collapse of civilization triggers the catastrophic meltdown of the world’s nuclear facilities.

7) Many people sign petitions, send letters, organise lobbies of politicians and regulators in the hope of stopping the destruction of the environment. Is this type of resistance enough to stop capitalist civilization from destroying the planet?

Apparently not. This type of work has been proceeding for decades, and the 150-200 species are still driven to extinction each day.

8) You recently published a book with Carolyn Baker called Extinction Dialogs. How should we prepare for the extinction of all life on the planet?

By living with death in mind. By loving what is, not what should be. By identifying what we love, and pursuing it. By pursuing excellence in our lives. By doing what is right, without attachment to the outcome. All of which applies even if we live forever.

U.N. Report Warns: Humans Will Only Have 60% Of Water Needed By 2030

In Uncategorized on March 20, 2015 at 9:22 pm
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Residents in Bangalore wait to collect drinking water in plastic pots for their households on March 18, 2015.

Oldspeak: ‘So. There’s that. This should come as no surprise, as Humans are currently consuming this irreplaceable and rapidly dwindling resource at an unsustainable rate at the same time that sources of fresh water are rapidly drying up due to Anthropogenic Global Warming. Right now, 1 in 9 humans don’t have access to safe water. 2.5 billion do not have access to adequate sanitation. With expected increases in population, by 2030, food demand is predicted to increase by 50% (70% by 2050) (Bruinsma, 2009), while energy demand from hydropower and other renewable energy resources will rise by 60% (WWAP, 2009). These issues are interconnected – increasing agricultural output, for example, will substantially increase both water and energy consumption, leading to increased competition for water between water-using sectors. Oh, and 85% of the world population lives in the driest half of the planet. SO as temperature rises, a lager and larger majority of humans will not have water to drink. In short, this is a recipe for extinction. Raising prices won’t help. Recycling won’t help. We will exceed the biocapacity of our planet, and that will be it. Hellacious paradox really. Lack of water on land will kill us, and overabundance of sea water will drown us. (2/3rds of people live near coastlines.) ” -OSJ

By Sarah Begley @ Time:

The world will only have 60% of the water it needs by 2030 without significant global policy change, according to a new report from the U.N.

While countries like India are rapidly depleting their groundwater, rainfall patterns around the world are becoming more unpredictable due to global warming, meaning there will be less water in reserves. Meanwhile, as the population increases, so does demand for potable water, snowballing to a massive problem for our waterways in 15 years’ time.

The report suggests several changes of course that nations can take, from increasing water prices to finding new ways of recycling waste water.

Extinction Rate Rivals That of Dinosaurs

In Uncategorized on December 31, 2014 at 1:00 am
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Polar bears, already an endangered species, are seeing their numbers continue to drop as Arctic sea ice continues its dramatic decline due to climate disruption.

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

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

By Dahr Jamail @ Truthout:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is it already too late to turn things around?

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

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

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

Earth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Water

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rising sea levels continue to take their toll.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Air

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fire

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

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

Denial and Reality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile, the signs of runaway ACD abound.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Earth Faces Sixth ‘Great Extinction’: Researchers Struggling To Assess How Bad It Is

In Uncategorized on December 17, 2014 at 10:07 pm

Oldspeak: “Studies that try to tally the number of species of animals, plants and fungi alive right now produce estimates that swing from less than 2 million to more than 50 million. The problem is that researchers have so far sampled only a sliver of Earth’s biodiversity, and most of the unknown groups inhabit small regions of the world, often in habitats that are rapidly being destroyed…. Nature pulled together the most reliable available data to provide a graphic status report of life on Earth (see ‘Life under threat’). Among the groups that can be assessed, amphibians stand out as the most imperilled: 41% face the threat of extinction, in part because of devastating epidemics caused by chytrid fungi. Large fractions of mammals and birds face significant threats because of habitat loss and degradation, as well as activities such as hunting…. Conservation policies could slow extinctions, but current trends do not give much comfort. Although nations are expanding the number of land and ocean areas that they set aside for protection, most measures of biodiversity show that pressures on species are increasing. “In general, the state of biodiversity is worsening, in many cases significantly.” –Richard Monastersky

“So it’s a given, the anthropocene extinction is underway. Scientists know it’s bad. They just aren’t quite sure how bad. They do know half of the biodiversity they know about has been rendered extinct in the past 40 years. They expect extinction rates to increase as conditions worsen, it is significantly worsening currently. As time passes, it’s getting harder and harder to ignore these realities. I’ve been struggling with some grief the past few days. Lots of interesting subconscious stuff has been working itself out in meditation. Feeling lighter, more serene, less fearful, more discerning. Accepting what is has been quite liberating.” -OSJ

By Richard Monastersky @ Nature:

Of all the species that have populated Earth at some time over the past 3.5 billion years, more than 95% have vanished — many of them in spectacular die-offs called mass extinctions. On that much, researchers can generally agree. Yet when it comes to taking stock of how much life exists today — and how quickly it will vanish in the future — uncertainty prevails.

Studies that try to tally the number of species of animals, plants and fungi alive right now produce estimates that swing from less than 2 million to more than 50 million. The problem is that researchers have so far sampled only a sliver of Earth’s biodiversity, and most of the unknown groups inhabit small regions of the world, often in habitats that are rapidly being destroyed.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) highlighted the uncertainty in the latest version of its Red List of Threatened Species, which was released in November. The report evaluated more than 76,000 species, a big increase over earlier editions. But that is just 4% of the more than 1.7 million species that have been described by scientists, making it impossible to offer any reliable threat level for groups that have not been adequately assessed, such as fish, reptiles and insects.

Recognizing these caveats, Nature pulled together the most reliable available data to provide a graphic status report of life on Earth (see ‘Life under threat’). Among the groups that can be assessed, amphibians stand out as the most imperilled: 41% face the threat of extinction, in part because of devastating epidemics caused by chytrid fungi. Large fractions of mammals and birds face significant threats because of habitat loss and degradation, as well as activities such as hunting.

Looking forward, the picture gets less certain. The effects of climate change, which are hard to forecast in terms of pace and pattern, will probably accelerate extinctions in as-yet unknown ways. One simple way to project into the future would be to assume that the rate of extinction will be constant; it is currently estimated to range from 0.01% to 0.7% of all existing species a year. “There is a huge uncertainty in projecting future extinction rates,” says Henrique Pereira, an ecologist at the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research in Leipzig.

At the upper rate, thousands of species are disappearing each year. If that trend continues, it could lead to a mass extinction — defined as a loss of 75% of species — over the next few centuries.

Conservation policies could slow extinctions, but current trends do not give much comfort. Although nations are expanding the number of land and ocean areas that they set aside for protection, most measures of biodiversity show that pressures on species are increasing. “In general, the state of biodiversity is worsening, in many cases significantly,” says Derek Tittensor, a marine ecologist with the United Nations Environment Programme’s World Conservation Monitoring Centre in Cambridge, UK.

Despite all the uncertainty, researchers agree that they need to devote more attention to evaluating current and future risks to biodiversity. One approach is to develop comprehensive computer models that can forecast how human activities will alter ecosystems. These general ecosystem models, or GEMs, are in their infancy: earlier this year, Tittensor and his colleagues published initial results from the first global model that seeks to mimic all the major ecological interactions on Earth in much the same way as climate models simulate the atmosphere and oceans (M. B. J. Harfoot et al. PLoS Biol.12,e1001841; 2014).

Building the GEM took 3 years, in part because the model tries to represent all organisms with body masses ranging from 10 micrograms (about the weight of small plankton) to 150,000 kilograms (roughly the size of a blue whale). “It needs a lot more development and testing, and ideally there will be a lot more variety of these models,” says Tittensor. But if they do a decent job of capturing the breadth of life in a computer, he says, “they have real potential to alert us to potential problems we wouldn’t otherwise detect”.

 

Arctic Warming & Increased Weather Extremes: The National Research Council Speaks

In Uncategorized on July 17, 2014 at 7:51 pm

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Oldspeak: “New news in the melting of the Arctic, none of it good. As industrial civilization plunders on, our great mother grows hotter with the intractable virus that is humanity… We’ve passed in to a new and completely unpredictable climate era where “the baseline physics have changed”  and we don’t have tests, methods or approaches to account for the changes underway that are happening faster than all old climate models predicted.  Tipping points could be reached at any time, and we don’t know when. Extremes will continue to be what we’ve never experienced.  Buckle up kids its gonna be a bumpy ride to extinction… Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick…”  -OSJ

“It is possible that recent Arctic changes have pushed the atmosphere into a new state with different variability. The strong Arctic forcing [warming] has emerged only in the past few years, and development of new methods and approaches may be required to test or account for it.

In a rapidly changing climate this is a given. In our old climate, we sort-of knew how it behaved. We had decades and even centuries of records to use to project changes into the future. But all of this historical data may be of much less use in the future as the baseline physics have now changed. Even more critical, the short term is now very important as tipping points may appear at any time.

Because of 20 years of delay in controlling climate pollution, we are experiencing more warming faster than we would have if we had of begun to address climate pollutants as was suggested decades ago. Because we are warming faster, the risk of climate tipping points is higher. This discussion point states that recent Arctic changes may have “pushed the atmosphere into a new state with different variability.” What they mean by variability is that the extremes get more extreme. This includes more extreme droughts, floods and winter weather. An example is that in the southeastern United States, droughts and floods have doubled over the last 30 years. -Bruce Melton

By Bruce Melton @ Truthout:

Arctic warming is happening at twice the average level of global warming in a process called arctic amplification, where more warming occurs as ice is lost because less of the sun’s energy is reflected back into space.

A new report from the National Research Council (NRC) details the findings of recent Arctic research: Arctic sea ice in all seasons is declining and the rate of loss is increasing. Multiple lines of study show this is impacting weather outside of the Arctic. Increased energy (heat) in the Arctic is slowing the progress of the jet stream around globe, allowing weather systems to linger, increasing the risk of severe weather happening more often in any one place. Increased warmth also means increased moisture in the Arctic – which increases the amount of snow, which in turn causes the jet stream to concentrate winter weather in North America and Eurasia.

The tone of the NRC report is embodied in the lead workshop presentation by Dr. James Screen of Exeter University in the UK. Because of the uncertainties associated with research in this rapidly evolving field, Screen proposed an “ACID” test to validate research findings. The test asks if research findings are: “Attributable to Arctic forcing; Corroborated by multiple lines of evidence; Informed by mechanistic understanding; and Detectable in the real world.”

Screen said the current state of science is in its infancy, and few if any of the lines of research pass the test, but the workshop summary adds: “Other participants noted that the ACID test approach is sound, but, given the limitations of available information, there are inherent limitations to the analyses that can be conducted.” (1) In other words, to be absolutely certain, more research is needed.

Science is a conservative industry that classically understates fact. One of the big reasons is that old maxim, “Publish or perish.” If a scientist is wrong in his or her published findings, the scholarly journals will think twice about publishing that scientist’s work again. Science therefore systematically understates evidence.

The consensus process, like that of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), is even more conservative (underestimating) in their statements because of the large number of individual scientists who must agree on the consensus position.

This consensus opinion on climate is generally not a thing of fact. It is a thing of acceptance by the broad scientific community. (2) Scientists are specialists. Almost all of them specialize in minute sectors of science as a whole. For large numbers of climate scientists to agree on a statement, they must be familiar with the leading edge of science that that statement discusses. In the highly compartmentalized world of research science, details of all disciplines are seldom understood by all.

The kind of familiarity it takes to bring new knowledge into the consensus can take years and even decades. The consensus opinion is therefore constantly behind the leading edge of science. With a rapidly changing climate, this can be a problem. A profound example of how the climate science consensus understates the current state of the science comes from the IPCC reports.

The 2007 IPCC report said that Antarctica was not supposed to begin losing ice until after 2100. The 2013 IPCC report however says that Antarctic ice loss has now nearly caught up with Greenland’s. Published findings dating back to the 1990s have always shown Antarctica to be losing ice. It is not as if Antarctica has suddenly started losing ice. But because the IPCC is a consensus driven organization, it takes time for “new” knowledge to infiltrate the entire industry. This is one of the main reasons why the IPCC systematically underestimates the current state of climate science. (3)

Some of the details of this National Research Council publication are:

• A panel discussion led by a researcher at the University of Alaska relayed that there has been a decrease in wind speed in that part of our atmosphere that moves storm systems around the world from 1979 to the present. This is one of the results of decreasing Artic sea ice in computer models. This speaker also notes that an increase in wind speeds in the 1950s was not found to be associated with an increase in Arctic sea ice. (4)

• Work by Atmospheric and Environmental Research (a commercial climate consultant working mostly for organizations like NOAA, NASA , the Department of Defense, insurance corporations and investment and energy companies) was presented that shows that: “Siberian snow cover has also been shown to influence mid-latitude winter weather . . . and [this]correctly predicted the cold winter in 2013 across Northern Eurasia and the United States.” (5)

• A researcher from Rutgers discussed seven things that “connect observed rapid warming of the Arctic with changing weather patterns in the mid-latitude Northern Hemisphere.” These items were mostly related to a decrease in the speed of the progression of storm systems caused by weakening steering winds. The seventh item states: “Slower moving upper level [winds] cause more persistent weather patterns, which increase the likelihood of extreme weather events associated with [these] prolonged weather conditions.” (6)

• Research from Penn State shows that stronger tropical weather activity in the South Seas enhances the flow of heat and moisture into the Arctic. (7) This fascinating phenomenon is called a teleconnection, and it has been found to exist in numerous places, causing numerous things to happen literally on the other side of the planet. A good example is the known connection between El Nino in the South Pacific and decreased hurricane activity in the Atlantic basin. El Nino increases upper level winds in the Atlantic. Increased upper level winds decrease important factors that allow hurricanes to develop.

• A review of research given by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory says: “Loss of Arctic sea ice, record negative values of the winter Arctic Oscillation atmospheric circulation index, earlier summer snow melt, and increasing extreme weather events at mid-latitudes – both heat waves and cold snowstorms – have been observed over the last decade.” Shifts in the wind patterns that move storms across the planet have resulted in more extreme early winter weather in 2009, 2010 and 2012 in North America, northern Europe and far eastern Asia (the research did not evaluate the 2013 season). (8)

• A workshop talk titled “Warm Arctic – Cold Continents” describes how decreased sea ice extents, decreased storm steering winds and early Siberian snow cover enhanced the winter weather extremes in 2012/2013. The summary for this discussion “suggests that the dramatic decrease in sea ice contributed to extreme weather events observed during that [2012/2013 winter] period.” (9)

• More discussion from Rutgers University addresses snow cover across the Northern Hemisphere. The last four Mays have been four of the five lowest on record. The last six Junes had the lowest snow cover coverage over the Northern Hemisphere and Eurasia with five of the last six in North America. (10)

• Modeling out of the University of California, Irvine has some unexpected results compared to what we have become accustomed to. Generally, the models tell us that Arctic warming spreads south, but historic modelling is based on long-term patterns. These researchers looked at the last six years of Arctic sea ice decline (2007 through 2012) and extended this short-term trend into the future. What they found was quite similar to what we have been experiencing. Winter weather over land areas in the Northern Hemisphere becomes more extreme with less Arctic sea ice. (11)

• More modeling from NOAA and the Geophysical Fluid Dynamic Laboratory shows that Arctic sea ice models cannot predict what these researchers call “very rare occurrence” of record low Arctic sea ice coverage of the 21st century. (12)

• Another modeling exercise, this one from the University of California at San Diego, looks at changes in rainfall and snowfall globally and at high latitudes, with and without sea ice in the Arctic. Ice and snow reflects up to 90 percent of the sun’s light energy back into space without warming the planet, but open water absorbs up to 90 percent of that energy where it stays on Earth, creating warming. A warmer planet is able to have more moisture in the atmosphere and this means that more precipitation could possibly be the result. This report says that many studies have found that overall precipitation will increase (and has already increased in some areas) but this is the first effort to look at the problem as these researchers did. What they found was that their modeling predicted more precipitation in cold areas but no change in warmer areas. The changes begin with global conditions very similar to what they are today. (13)

• Research from Niigata University in Japan that compares sea ice conditions between 2005-2009 and 1979-1983 shows significant cooling in eastern Siberia with lesser cooling in Eastern Europe and northeastern North America. (14) Work from the University of Alaska shows that most climate models underestimate actual detailed conditions of daily sea ice movement in the Arctic. Modeling with actual sea ice movements shows increased occurrences of winter weather outbreaks in northeastern North America – an impact that current modeling does not reproduce. (15)

• One of the breakout groups at this workshop discussed a point that seems particularly poignant to this discussion: “It is possible that recent Arctic changes have pushed the atmosphere into a new state with different variability. The strong Arctic forcing [warming] has emerged only in the past few years, and development of new methods and approaches may be required to test or account for it.”

In a rapidly changing climate this is a given. In our old climate, we sort-of knew how it behaved. We had decades and even centuries of records to use to project changes into the future. But all of this historical data may be of much less use in the future as the baseline physics have now changed. Even more critical, the short term is now very important as tipping points may appear at any time.

Because of 20 years of delay in controlling climate pollution, we are experiencing more warming faster than we would have if we had of begun to address climate pollutants as was suggested decades ago. Because we are warming faster, the risk of climate tipping points is higher. This discussion point states that recent Arctic changes may have “pushed the atmosphere into a new state with different variability.” What they mean by variability is that the extremes get more extreme. This includes more extreme droughts, floods and winter weather. An example is that in the southeastern United States, droughts and floods have doubled over the last 30 years. (16)

Much of the challenge with evaluating climate change is based on modeling. We know how to operate climate models based on our old climate, and they work quite well reproducing our old climate. Arctic climate though has likely advanced to a state that is not represented by our old climate.

The reality of science also tells us that because our baseline conditions are now rapidly changing, we may never be able to project future changes with accuracy – it’s difficult to hit a moving target. This is another reason why the IPCC and other consensus-based climate reporting often underestimates the speed and extremeness of climate change.

Into the future we must rely more on history. Since the mid-1990s we have been discovering highly accurate evidence that shows ancient abrupt climate changes have happened repeatedly across our planet in ways that dwarf current modeling projections. But this evidence lacks many details about why these changes occurred – only that they occurred.

A running theme in this report is that we must develop new techniques that can better deal with our new climate. Prehistory evidence is one of these tools. Over 20 times in the last 100,000 years, highly accurate evidence from ice cores in Greenland and Antarctica have shown abrupt climate changes of 9 to 14 degrees F across the globe in as little as a few decades and astonishingly, in as little as a few years. In Greenland these changes were 25 to 35 degrees F. (17)

We know that massive abrupt climate changes are a regular occurrence on earth, and we are finding that arctic amplification is changing our climate faster than has previously been projected by the consensus opinion. At some point, the scientific tendency to conservatively wait until enough evidence has accumulated must acquiesce to expert opinion and logic.

Expert opinion in the late 1990s said that Antarctica was losing ice 100 years ahead of the consensus opinion. But the main voice of climate policy on this planet, the IPCC consensus, did not agree until 2013. Today, expert opinion exists to say that arctic amplification is causing our weather to become more extreme and that these extremes will become even more profound as our climate continues to warm.

Time is short. Environmental tipping points tend to be more extreme if the environmental system is pushed harder. We have already delayed addressing climate pollution 20 years or more and the Arctic has just begun to lose ice. The extreme weather events that are “likely” caused by Arctic warming today have the capacity to become much, much worse as the Arctic has a lot of warming yet to come even if we ceased all greenhouse gas emissions today. Climate policy should be driven by logic and expert opinion, not the consensus.

Notes:

National Research Council Report:
Thomas et al., “Linkages between Arctic Warming and Mid-latitude Weather Patterns,” National Research Council, June 2014.

1. ACID approach is sound…
Thomas et al., “Linkages between Arctic Warming and Mid-latitude Weather Patterns,” National Research Council, June 2014, page 34, paragraphs four and five.

2. The climate science consensus is conservative and understates the latest knowledge of climate science . . .

From the University of Alberta: Universities of California at San Diego and St. Benedict/St. Johns and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public affairs tells us; “Over the past two decades, skeptics of the reality and significance of anthropogenic climate change have frequently accused climate scientists of ‘alarmism’ . . . However, the available evidence suggests that scientists have in fact been conservative in their projections of the impacts of climate change. … We suggest, therefore, that scientists are biased not toward alarmism but rather the reverse: toward cautious estimates, where we define caution as erring on the side of less rather than more alarming predictions.” Scientific American: “Checking 20 years of projections shows that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has consistently underestimated the pace and impacts of global warming.”

Brysse et al., Climate change prediction: Erring on the side of least drama?, Global Environmental Change, February 2013, abstract.

From the University of California, Santa Barbara: “Mass media in the U.S. continue to suggest that scientific consensus estimates of global climate disruption, such as those from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), are ‘exaggerated’ and overly pessimistic. By contrast, work on the Asymmetry of Scientific Challenge (ASC) suggests that such consensus assessments are likely to understate climate disruptions.” A National Research Council report prepared by the Committee on Strategic Advice on the U.S. Climate Change Science Program: Brysse and team reports in section 2.3: “IPCC projections have systematically underestimated key climate change drivers and impacts. This committee found that ‘The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projections may have been too conservative in several areas, including CO2 emissions by various countries, increases in surface temperatures, and sea level rise.”

Freudenburg and Muselli, “Global warming estimates, media expectations, and the asymmetry of scientific challenge,” Global Environmental Change, August 2010. see abstract.

Scientific American: “Across two decades and thousands of pages of reports, the world’s most authoritative voice on climate science has consistently understated the rate and intensity of climate change and the danger those impacts represent, say a growing number of studies on the topic.”Climate Science Predictions Prove Too Conservative,” Scientific American, December 6, 2012, first sentence.

3. Antarctica has begun to lose ice 100 years or more ahead of IPCC predictions . . . Antarctic surface mass balance (SMB) in the 2007 IPCC Report was supposed to increase, not decrease, for all scenarios, through 2100. This means that snow accumulation was supposed to be more than melt, evaporation and iceberg discharge combined: “All studies for the 21st century project that Antarctic SMB changes will contribute negatively to sea level, owing to increasing accumulation exceeding any ablation increase (see Table 10.6).”

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Fourth Assessment Report, “Climate Change 2007: Working Group I: The Physical Science Basis,” 10.6.4.1, Surface Mass Balance, fifth paragraph.

The 2013 IPCC report tells us that Antarctic ice loss has almost caught up with Greenland. Summary for Policy Makers, E.3 Cryosphere, page 9, third bullet. “The average rate of ice loss from the Antarctic ice sheet has likely increased from 30 [–37 to 97] Gt yr–1 over the period 1992–2001 to 147 [72 to 221] Gt yr–1 over the period 2002 to 2011.” Greenland, second bullet: “The average rate of ice loss from the Greenland ice sheet has very likely substantially increased from 34 [–6 to 74] Gt yr–1 over the period 1992 to 2001 to 215 [157 to 274] Gt yr–1 over the period 2002 to 2011.”

4. Decrease in winds 1979 to present . . . Thomas et al., Linkages between Arctic Warming and Mid-latitude Weather Patterns, National Research Council, June 2014, page 47, paragraph five.

5. Siberian snow cover and the cold winter or 2013… ibid. page 48, paragraph two.

6. Seven things that point to Arctic Warming increasing Northern Hemisphere extreme weather . . . ibid. page 48, paragraph six.

7. Stronger weather systems in the South Seas enhance warming in the Arctic… ibid. page 49, paragraph two.

8. More extreme early winter weather and its association with changing storm steering wind patterns…
ibid., page 49, paragraph five.

9. Warm Arctic – Cold Continents…ibid., page 52, paragraph one.

10. Record low snow cover…ibid., page 53, paragraph four.

11. Lower Arctic Sea ice coverage and more extreme winter weather over land areas in the northern Hemisphere…
ibid., page 54, paragraph one and two.

12. Very rare occurrence of record low Arctic sea ice coverage…
ibid., page 55, paragraph 4.

13. More rain and snow in cold areas with less sea ice…ibid., page 56 paragraph two.

14. Research from Niigata university in Japan…ibid., page 56, third paragraph.

15. Comparing models to actual; models underestimate cold winter outbreaks in the northeastern U.S…
ibid., page 57, paragraph 2.

16. Floods and drought have doubled in the U.S. southeast in the last 30 years…
Li, et. al., “Changes to the North Atlantic Subtropical High and Its Role in the Intensification of Summer Rainfall Variability in the Southeastern United States,” Journal of Climate, October 2010, abstract.

17.  Abrupt climate change 23 times in the last 100,000 years . . . Alley, Wally Was Right – Predictive ability of the North Atlantic Conveyor Belt Hypothesis for Abrupt Climate Change, “Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Science,” February 2007, Figure 1 shows the 23 abrupt climate changes.

_________________________________________________________________________________________

Bruce Melton is a professional engineer, environmental researcher, filmmaker, and author in Austin, Texas. Information on Melton’s new book, Climate Discovery Chronicles can be found along with more climate change writing, climate science outreach and critical environmental issue documentary films on his web sites and http://www.climatediscovery.com Images copyright Bruce Melton 2012, except where referenced otherwise.

The Climate Change Now Initiative is a nonprofit outreach organization reporting the latest discoveries in climate science in plain English.

 

Anarchy And Near Term Extinction

In Uncategorized on June 27, 2014 at 3:34 am

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Oldspeak: “…militarists make a fundamental error in assuming that current forms of hierarchical organization will continue on indefinitely. Institutional hierarchy has only existed for about 1% of our time on Planet Earth. There is every reason to believe that hierarchical organization, far from being inevitable, is actually unnatural for human beings insofar as it creates massive social dysfunction…In The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better, Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett demonstrate statistically that more equal societies “enjoy better physical and mental health, lower homicide rates, fewer drug problems, fewer teenage births, higher math and literacy scores, higher stands of child wellbeing, less bullying in schools, lower obesity rates, and few people in prison.”…Equally interesting, the psychological malaise caused by hierarchy extends to the men and women at the top of society’s pyramid. In The Good Life: Wellbeing and the New Science of Altruism, Selfishness and Immorality, psychotherapist Graham Music notes that “The higher up the social-class ranking people are, the less pro-social, charitable and empathetically they behave… Those with more materialistic values consistently have worse relationships, with more conflict.”… If the assumptions inherent to state capitalism continue to be shared by majorities or large minorities, environmental collapse will likely entail an increase in intra-species violence, exactly as the militarists predict; however, as our rulers are quick to point out in their internal literature, in crisis there is opportunity. Environmental degradation may also force people to examine alternative ways of living, including those currently deemed “utopian.”…. War, poverty, environmental collapse and other catastrophes of modern existence are inextricably linked. “The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist,” states capitalist ideologue Thomas Friedman. “McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the F-15.” ” -Scott Noble

“Strong case for transitioning to a decentralized anacro-syndicalist socio-political system and doing away with the failing, ecocidal hierarchical system humans have only operated in for 1% of their time on this planet, yet have managed to bring about Earth’s 6th Mass Extinction. We have to ask ourselves why we’re so accepting of a such an unnatural, dysfunctional, debilitating system dependent on conflict, competition, untruth and violence to function at the expense of fully half of humanity and innumerable other lifeforms? Why are we allowing the state to “function as an artificial surrogate for real community“? Why have we abandoned ways of being that were sustainable, balanced regenerative for millions of years, and replaced them with ways of being that are suicidal, imbalanced, extractive and unsustainable for all life on this planet?” Why is Anarchy constantly being equated with violent chaos, when the reality is it’s the closest thing to pure democracy? (Probably because our rulers are mortally TERRiFiED of a rulerless, self-governed society) We’ve born witness to the violent chaos bred by hierarchy. Our hierarchical system is rapidly deteriorating. it is unsustainable. it is unhealthy. it must be retired before the worst comes.” -OSJ

By Scott Noble @ Dissident Voice:

It is often said that the invention of terrible weapons of destruction will put an end to war. That is an error. As the means of extermination are improved, the means of reducing men who hold the state conception of life to submission can be improved to correspond.

– Leo Tolstoy, The Kingdom of God is Within You (1849)

Anarchism is not a romantic fable but the hardheaded realization, based on five thousand years of experience, that we cannot entrust the management of our lives to kings, priests, politicians, generals, and county commissioners.

– Edward Abbey, A Voice Crying in the Wilderness (1989)

According to the theory of Near Term Extinction (NTE) the human race is about to go the way of the Dinosaurs. Though polls on the subject are scarce, it is safe to assume that the majority of humanity disagrees. Most of us remain at least cautiously optimistic about our long term survival prospects. Notable exceptions can be found amongst various apocalyptic cults, whose followers anticipate near term divine intervention, as well as trans-humanists, who anticipate the rise of post-humans due to exotic new technologies. In contrast to these worldviews, NTE is not rooted in religion or science-fiction but a pessimistic reading of the environmental sciences, probability theory and the law of unintended consequences. Nor is NTE limited to the fringe. A growing number of scholars, including highly visible figures like Stephen Hawking and Richard Dawkins, have suggested that near term extinction is plausible, though certainly not inevitable (predictions range from years to decades to centuries). Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, environmental crises such as climate change have supplanted global thermonuclear war in the pessimist’s hierarchy of doom. Yet these threats are not mutually exclusive. A leaked 2004 report by the Pentagon on global warming anticipates increased risk of “Nuclear conflict, mega-droughts, famine and widespread rioting…Once again, warfare [will] define human life.”1 Though such predictions are self-serving – environmental crises are deemed yet another threat that can only be contained by militarism – they are also rational. Under state capitalism, competition for diminishing resources may exacerbate violent conflict, creating a feedback loop not unlike global warming itself. This essay will argue that if the human race is to survive, anarchic systems based on participatory democracy must replace top down models of state rule.

Realpolitik

In his book The McDonaldization of Society, sociologist George Ritzer portrays rationalism as a paradox: highly rational models frequently produce highly irrational outcomes.2 The modern workplace, where we spend most of our waking hours, provides a familiar illustration: rationalist modes of production based on efficiency, calculability, predictability and control have reduced large swathes of humanity to human resources, disposable entities afforded little in the way of self-determination and dignity. In Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times (1936), the Little Tramp himself becomes part of the assembly line, compelled forward by gears and pulleys, sliding through the bowels of the machine.

When it comes to international affairs, rationalist models generally fall under the heading realpolitik, a term used to denote both cynical amorality and unflinching “realism” by political leaders acting for a perceived greater good. Unlike idealist interpretations of the state, which focus extensively on ethics, realpolitik is primarily concerned with power. The Italian philosopher and diplomat Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527) wrote, “How we live is so far removed from how we ought to live, that [the ruler] who abandons what is done for what ought to be done, will rather bring about his own ruin rather than his preservation.”3 Since the ruler’s primary objective is to maintain power, immoral behaviour is not only acceptable but necessary.

Machiavelli did not usher in in a new political philosophy; he merely articulated what had always been understood by rulers anywhere and everywhere. In 1934, British historian A.J.P. Taylor suggested that the principles we associate with realpolitik are “a series of assumptions, with which statesmen have lived since their earliest years and which they regard as so axiomatic as hardly to be worth stating.”4 Nevertheless, Machiavelli remains scandalous to this day. His brutal practicality is summed up in Chapter 18 of The Prince – people ought either to be “well treated or crushed.”3

The 19th Century anarchist Mikhail Bakunin agreed with Machiavelli’s cynical understanding of power but came to very different conclusions about how humanity should proceed. He bitterly praised the Italian philosopher for exposing the state with “terrible frankness,” and demonstrating that “crime… is the sine qua non of political intelligence and true patriotism,” yet rejected the notion that such crime was inevitable. “We are the sons of the revolution… We believe in the rights of man, in the dignity and necessary emancipation of the human species.”5 The state – as well capitalism – should be abolished.

Up until the mid-twentieth century, and with the exception of a few rogue philosophers who advocated world government, self-government or no government at all, near-constant warfare between competing states has been viewed as an unfortunate but necessary byproduct of international relations. The invention of the nuclear bomb changed that – or would have, if the idealists were correct. American military strategist Bernard Brodie was overly optimistic when, in 1946, he wrote, “Thus far the chief purpose of our military establishment has been to win wars. From now on its chief purpose must be to avert them. It can have almost no other useful purpose.”6

The military establishment, soon to be termed the military industrial complex by President Eisenhower, did in fact have another purpose, namely to expand American power through imperialism. Tolstoy was proven correct: not even the creation of the most “terrible weapons of war” would put an end to the state’s quest for dominance.

Few people who consider themselves rational would advocate for the disarmament of the state apparatus in which they live. Yet in the age of nuclear weapons, it is precisely this insistence on “national security” through state power that is most likely to kill us. If, as Bakunin argued, “small states are virtuous only because of their weakness,”5 powerful states demonstrate an ineluctable tendency toward dominating others. The result is militarism.

MAD

The history of civilization is sufficiently blood-soaked that many modern intellectuals, including Albert Einstein, have argued that competitive state frameworks must be abandoned if the human race is to survive.

Following the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Einstein implored:

A world government must be created which is able to solve conflicts between nations by judicial decision. This government must be based on a clear-cut constitution which is approved by the governments and nations and which gives it the sole disposition of offensive weapons.7

It is doubtful that a world government such as envisioned by Einstein – which allowed for the centralization of “offensive weapons” – would have eliminated the nuclear threat, let alone war, if for no other reason than secessionist movements and other power struggles would have remained a constant concern (we will return to this subject at the essay’s closing).

In any case, Churchill, Truman and Stalin would carve up most of Europe at the Yalta and Potsdam conferences, creating the foundation for the Cold War. As if to underscore the improbability of world government, the three leaders had an argument over who would enter the Potsdam conference room first; they eventually decided that they would enter at precisely the same time through three separate doors.8

The new paradigm was MAD – Mutually Assured Destruction. Because man is a rational being, he would not risk annihilation by attacking his foe. Game theorists at the Rand Corporation, a Pentagon think tank, provided the theoretical basis. According to the prisoner’s dilemma, both players had to assume the other was rational.

While most nuclear strategists took it for granted that the point of the game was to maintain peace between the super-powers, others believed, quite logically, that the point of the game was to win it.

Among those who embraced the “winner takes all” view was General Curtis Lemay, purported model for the character “Jack the Ripper” in Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove.

Best known for masterminding the massive bombing campaign against Japan during WWII (which resulted in half-a-million dead and about five million homeless), Lemay headed up the Strategic Air Command and served as Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force from 1961 to 1965.

Lemay drew up a war plan which involved dropping “the entire stockpile of atomic bombs in a single massive attack” on the Soviet Union. The Washington Post later quoted the General as stating, “Every major American city – Washington, New York, Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles – will be reduced to rubble. Similarly, the principal cities of the Soviet Union will be destroyed.”9

According to then Defence Secretary Robert McNamara, Lemay was “absolutely certain” that “the US was going to have to fight a nuclear war with the Soviet Union” and that “we should fight it sooner rather than later.”9

Equally disturbing as the super-hawks at the Pentagon were the numerous academics – people who considered themselves highly rational – who advocated a similar strategy. Most found their home at the Rand Corporation.

One of Rand’s most notorious strategists was Herman Kahn. He believed that the US atomic arsenal was a wasting resource. So long as the Soviet Union continued to build its own arsenal, America’s would decrease in value. For Kahn, nuclear weapons were like a precious commodity in danger of depreciation on the global marketplace. Though he did not explicitly advocate a first strike, Kahn believed that a nuclear war was “winnable.”10

Breaking the Chain of Command

MAD is widely regarded as a triumph of both rationalism and hard-nosed realpolitik. The missiles stayed in their silos. We didn’t go extinct. Starry-eyed idealists who rejected Ronald Reagan’s belligerence and exorbitant military spending were proven wrong.

What few realize is that we escaped destruction primarily due to a handful of individuals who rejected the chain of command – and even the logic of their computer screens – in order to embrace the better angels of their being.

In my documentary film The Power Principle, I explore several of the biggest “close calls” during the Cold War.

The most serious event occurred during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

In the midst of the conflict, a group of United States Navy Destroyers began dropping practice-depth charges on a Soviet submarine positioned near Cuba in order to force it to the surface. The sub commanders believed WWIII was underway.

According to Soviet military protocol, the commanders had previous permission to launch missiles if all three reached consensus. Two said yes – one said no. Then “an argument broke out among the three, in which only Vasili Arkhipov was against the launch.” Thomas Blanton, a director of the National Security Archive, later remarked, “A guy called Vasili Arkhipov saved the world.”11

In 1983, a computer malfunction at a nuclear warning facility near Moscow falsely indicated a nuclear attack by the United States. The probability indicator was at level 1.

The man in charge, Stanislav Petrov, did not have the ability to launch a retaliatory strike. However, were he to pass on the information to the top command, the Soviet leadership would have only had a few minutes to decide on whether to launch a counter-attack. According to Bruce Blair, a Cold War nuclear strategist, “the top leadership, given only a couple of minutes to decide, told that an attack had been launched, would [have made] a decision to retaliate.” Petrov broke military protocol, and waited.

It turned out that the computer malfunction was caused by “a rare alignment of sunlight on high-altitude clouds and satellites.”12

The third biggest close call occurred in the same year when NATO began a war exercise; the scenario – an all out nuclear attack on the Soviet Union. It was codenamed Able Archer.

When the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union during WWII, they did so under the guise of a war game. Alarmed by Ronald Reagan’s “evil empire” rhetoric, as well as America’s deployment of Pershing II strategic missiles in Europe, hard-liners in the Kremlin became convinced that history was about to repeat itself. In the run up to the exercise, the Soviets secretly mobilized all key components of their military forces, including nuclear submarines. One mistake by either side and a holocaust would have resulted.

There are other examples, though not quite as hair-raising. A report by the Nuclear Files Foundation lists over 20 “close calls” during the Cold War.13

The greatest danger has never been a rogue commander in the vein of “Jack the Ripper” – though that threat is real enough – but accidental nuclear war caused by incompetence and/or technical malfunction.14

Former Defence Sectary Robert McNamara, who was present in the Oval Office during the Cuban Missile Crisis, eventually came to a stark conclusion: “It can be confidently predicted that the combination of human fallibility and nuclear arms will inevitably lead to nuclear destruction.”15

Unlike most of the public, US military leaders are well aware of the numerous close calls of the Cold War. The same is presumably true of most men and women who (along with military leaders) formulate current US policy. If their goal was the survival, let alone health, of the human race, the United States would have long since abandoned aggressive war. A fraction of the US military budget could eliminate poverty worldwide,16 and in doing so drain the swamp of resentment and rage that provides the lifeblood of the “terrorist threat.”

For critics of American foreign policy, the failure of US leaders to pursue a peaceful path following the collapse of the Soviet Union is often attributed to a uniquely American belligerence or depravity. Yet a cursory glance through the history books shows that the American empire, while exceptional in terms of global reach and technology, is anything but exceptional in terms of base motivation; it is behaving in a remarkably similar fashion to every empire that preceded it. We can only conclude that powerful states – and the people to tend to wield great power within them – share peculiar forms of logic that are alien to most of their citizenry.

The Power Principle

The dominant view amongst anthropologists is that we have lived in relatively peaceful, cooperative, egalitarian societies for 99% of our history. In the words of anthropologist Christopher Boehm, “Humans were egalitarian for thousands of generations before hierarchical societies began to appear.”17 Many of the behaviours we now celebrate – “success” through the hoarding of wealth, for example – were traditionally considered socially deviant. Ethnographies of extant nomadic foragers reveal that they are “all but obsessively concerned with being free from the authority of others. That is the basic thrust of their political ethos.”18

The Utku in the Canadian Arctic have an extreme intolerance for “displays of anger, aggression, or dominance.”19 The Pintupi Aborigines insist that “One should assert one’s autonomy only in ways that do not threaten the equality and autonomy of others” (Myers).20 Among the Wape tribe in New Guinea, “A man will not tolerate a situation where a neighbour has more than he has. A man should not possess either goods or power to the disadvantage of others” (Mitchell).21

In both egalitarian and hierarchical societies, power is jealously guarded. For egalitarians, the goal is to maximize freedom through group solidarity; for despots, the goal is to maximize the “freedom” of rulers to oppress the majority.

Among political philosophers, only anarchists have seriously considered the threat posed by hierarchy in human affairs. For this reason they have been labeled “utopian.” Yet it may be that idealized notions of benevolent hierarchies are not only unrealistic but wildly implausible. Just as systems of domestic law have proven incapable of preventing tyranny, so too have international laws utterly failed to prevent war.

For anarchists, the reason for this is self-evident: the logic of power is power. There is no law or principle so compelling that it will not be tossed aside at the first sign that those who hold power are in danger of losing it. Hunter-gatherers are able to prevent social dominance hierarchies because they act in a group wide coalition; under the state apparatus, with its entrenched hierarchies, this ability is severely curtailed.

Nevertheless, for the vast majority of political philosophers, the idea that a select minority should rule over the mass is taken for granted. James Madison, the “father of the American constitution,” argued that a primary purpose of government was to “protect the minority of the opulent against the majority.” His great fear was “levelling tendencies,” in other words, real democracy.22

If nation states existed in a vacuum, incapable of waging war against other states, minority rule would perhaps be tolerable, depending on the disposition of the men and women who happen to rule over the majority at a given time. The problem is that states are not content to rest on their laurels. Schopenhauer’s famous quote about wealth – that it is “like sea-water; the more we drink, the thirstier we get” – applies equally to power itself. The anthropologist Gregory Bateson explained the phenomenon in terms of “optima” and “maxima”: “the ethics of optima and the ethics of maxima are totally different ethical systems. The ethics of maxima knows only one rule: more.”23

Egalitarian societies are able to maintain optima due to a low center of gravity. In large hierarchical societies, wherein power becomes centralized, leaders or entire social classes can easily become despotic. Lord Acton’s famous quote that “power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely” was more vividly expressed by the great American novelist Kurt Vonnegut: “Human beings are chimpanzees who become crazy drunk on power.”

Austrian political scientist Leopold Kohr, who described himself as a “philosophical anarchist,” regarded powerful states as the most dangerous expression of the maxima principle:

There could be no gentler peoples on earth today than the Portuguese, the Swedes, the Norwegians, or the Danes. Yet, when they found themselves in possession of power, they lashed out against any and all comers with such fury that they conquered the world from horizon to horizon. This was not because, at the period of their national expansion, they were more aggressive than others. They were more powerful.24

Great powers may temporarily “check” one another, to the point where – depending on the global power configuration – some powerful states may seem positively benign; nevertheless, by their very nature, states must exist in an environment of perpetual conflict; when a “critical quantity of power” is reached by one state in relation to others, war is a likely result. For these and other reasons, Bakunin believed that international law is always destined to fail.

There is no common right, no social contract of any kind between them; otherwise they would cease to be independent states and become the federated members of one great state. But unless this great state were to embrace all of humanity, it would be confronted with other great states, each federated within, each maintaining the same posture of inevitable hostility. War would still remain the supreme law, an unavoidable condition of human survival.

Every state, federated or not, would therefore seek to become the most powerful. It must devour lest it be devoured, conquer lest it be conquered, enslave lest it be enslaved, since two powers, similar and yet alien to each other, could not coexist without mutual destruction.5

Universal Hostility

When NATO was created in 1949, its ostensible purpose was to protect Europe from the Soviet Union. Yet when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, NATO did not; in fact, it expanded.

Speaking in 2005, American military geostrategist Thomas Barnett boasted that since the collapse of the Soviet Union, “demand for our services has increased 4-5 times.”14 Instead of the “peace dividend” promised by Bill Clinton, aggressive war by the United States actually escalated.

Twenty years after Perestroika, Gorbachev lamented that his concessions – rather than creating more peace and harmony – had produced a “winner’s complex” among the American political elite.25 Gorbachev had envisioned for post-Soviet Russia a social democracy similar to the Scandinavian nations. What actually followed were a series of brutal “free market” reforms engineered by technocrats from the Chicago school of economics. It took decades for Russia to regain some semblance of stability. Now that it has – and despite the vanished pretext of an ideological battle between capitalism and communism – the Cold War is back with a vengeance.

When Gorbachev allowed for the peaceful dismantling of the Soviet Union, he was promised by George H.W. Bush that NATO would not expand “one inch to the east.”14 Instead, NATO has expanded to much of the world – including Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, the Baltic and Central Asia. Coinciding with these aggressive policies of expansion and encirclement, the US has insisted on establishing anti-missile systems in Poland designed to eliminate Russia’s nuclear deterrent.

The theoretical basis behind America’s treatment of post-Soviet Russia crosses party lines. Paul Wolfowitz, who served as Deputy Secretary of Defence under George W. Bush, wrote in Defence Planning Guidance (1992): “Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere.”26 Similarly, Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski argued in his 1997 book The Grand Chessboard that control of Eurasia – to the exclusion of Russia – is the key factor in ensuring American primacy:

Failure to widen NATO… would shatter the concept of an expanding Europe… Worse, it could reignite dormant Russian political aspirations in Central Europe… Europe is America’s essential geopolitical bridgehead in Eurasia… A wider Europe and an enlarged NATO will serve the short-term and longer-term interests of U.S. policy.27

In February 2014 the democratically elected albeit corrupt government of Ukraine was overthrown in a right-wing putsch supported by the United States, prompting Vladimir Putin to engineer a referendum in Crimea allowing for its annexation into Russia. Long before the crisis, and in response to previous provocations on Russia’s borders, Putin delivered a speech to the Kremlin in which he stated:

Their [U.S.] defence budget in absolute figures is almost 25 times bigger than Russia’s. This is what in defence is referred to as ‘their home — their fortress’. Clever… Very clever. But this means that we also need to build our home and make it strong and well protected. We see, after all, what is going on in the world. Comrade Wolf knows whom to eat, as the saying goes. It knows whom to eat and is not about to listen to anyone, it seems.14

In Putin’s portrayal of America as a ravenous wolf we see an echo of Bakunin’s maxim that states must “devour lest [they] be devoured.”

The desire by Russian leaders to retain control of their Black Sea port in Crimea and to project power into neighbouring (NATO-affiliated) states is a classic expression of the cordon sanitaire or “quarantine line.” In state-craft, the term is defined as a protective barrier against a potentially aggressive nation or dangerous influence.

Putin has not been without his own forays into military violence, such as the brutal subjugation of Chechnya in the mid-90′s (during which the capital, Grozny, was largely reduced to rubble). Nevertheless, the Russian leader has focussed most of his attention on building economic alliances, most notably that of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).

Following the first BRICS summit in 2009, member nations called for a new global reserve currency (rather than the US dollar) that would be “diversified, stable and predictable.”28

Apart from the small matter of nuclear weapons, it is in the economic realm that Russia is considered most dangerous. Russia provides the European Union with about a third of its gas, remains one of Germany’s largest trading partners, and has arranged a massive natural gas supply deal with China.

In the same way that NATO has attempted to encircle Russia, the Pentagon’s “Asia pivot” seeks to quarantine China militarily. China has responded by announcing a new Air Defence Identification Zone in the East China Sea, overlapping disputed territories with Japan. In April, the US established a new “Defence” pact with the Philippines.

Russia and China have repeatedly vetoed US-sponsored Security Council Resolutions that would have allowed for the legal bombing of Syria (which houses one of Russia’s last foreign military bases outside of the former Soviet Union). Yet this has not prevented the United States from attempting to subvert the Syrian government through semi-covert means. The CIA, the British SAS, Saudi Arabia, and NATO member Turkey have been training and supplying Syrian rebels in Jordan and elsewhere since the beginning of the insurgency against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.29 Syria, in turn, has a mutual defence pact with Iran.

As always in the recent history of the Middle East, the wild card is Israel.

The destruction of Iran remains Israel’s primary foreign policy objective. Although Hezbollah has sensibly warned that an attack against Iran would “set the entire middle east ablaze.”30 Israeli leaders perceive Iran as a potential counter-check to Zionist power. In addition to geopolitical concerns, Israeli leaders embrace a peculiar military strategy known as the “Mad Dog” doctrine. First articulated by Israeli military leader and politician Moshe Dayan, it calls for Israel to behave “like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother.”31 North Korea seems to have embraced a similar strategy, though to considerably less effect.

The most disturbing manifestation of this strategy is the so-called “Samson option.” Named after the biblical character Samson, who pushed apart the pillars of a Philistine temple, thereby killing both himself and his captors, the Samson option calls for destroying much of the world in response to an existential threat to the Jewish state. Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld explains: “We possess several hundred atomic warheads and rockets and can launch them at targets in all directions… We have the capability to take the world down with us.”32

The Samson option, and Israel’s behaviour in general, has led the American political scientist Norman Finkelstein to describe the country as a “lunatic state.”33

In his article “Marching as to War,” American paleoconservative author Pat Buchanan expresses incredulity over American Vice President Joe Biden’s post-Ukraine-coup trip through the former Soviet bloc countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. During the junket, Biden reiterated America’s commitment to “protect” these nations: “our word” is “solemn” and “iron clad.” According to Buchanan, Biden was “affirming war guarantees General Eisenhower would have regarded as insane.”34

Here we may say that while Biden’s actions may have been insane during the Eisenhower administration, they are perfectly logical under the Obama administration. In keeping with the theory of the Power Principle, or Kohr’s notion of “critical quantities of power,” the collapse of the Soviet Union eliminated the primary check to the American empire. The dogs of war could be fully unleashed. Now that Russia is resurgent, and the US declining economically, there is a great deal of barking going on.

On April Fool’s Day, 2014, NATO Sectary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen stated:

NATO’s greatest responsibility is to protect and defend our territory and our people. And make no mistake, this is what we will do. We will make sure we have updated military plans, enhanced exercises and appropriate deployments.35

Rasmussen is nothing if not worldly, considering that “his” people evidently include populations from countries as varied as Albania, Croatia, Canada, France, Iceland, Italy, Romania, the UK and the USA.

The illegal bombing of Serbia by the Clinton administration may be regarded as the starting point in the New Cold War, for it was during the assault that NATO began its eastward shift.

The destruction of Yugoslavia was “rational,” argues historian Michael Parenti, because “Yugoslavia was the one country in Eastern Europe that would not voluntarily overthrow what remained of its socialist system and install a free-market economic order… Yugoslavs were proud of their postwar economic development and of their independence from both the Warsaw pact and NATO.”36

Considerably less rational was the behaviour of US General Wesley Clark during the conflict. According to British pop singer James Blunt (best known for his song “You’re beautiful”), who commanded 30,000 NATO troops in Bosnia, he was instructed by the US General to attack a squadron of Russian soldiers at the Pristina Air Base.

The direct command [that] came in from Gen Wesley Clark was to overpower them. Various words were used that seemed unusual to us. Words such as ‘destroy’ came down the radio.37

Like Vasili Arkhipov during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and Stanislav Petrov during the 1983 nuclear-warning “computer glitch,” James Blunt disobeyed orders. He was backed up by British General Sir Mike Jackson. Said Jackson: “I’m not going to have my soldiers be responsible for starting World War III.”38

In contravention of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which demands “good-faith” efforts to work toward nuclear disarmament, the United States is projected to spend 1 trillion maintaining and expanding its nuclear weapons systems over the next 30 years39 – assuming we survive that long.

Rationalizing War

No state, no matter how powerful or totalitarian, is capable of engaging in aggressive war absent ideological justification. These justifications typically take on two forms: a noble cause that the public can relate to and a cause that – though it would seem brutal and even immoral to the public – is deemed rational by members of a particular ruling class.

The celebrated American political philosopher Rienhold Neibuhr claimed that “rationality belongs to the cool observers.” Elites should recognize “the stupidity of the average man,” who must be ideologically manipulated via “emotionally potent oversimplifications.”40 Walter Lippmann, the “Father of modern journalism,” agreed, arguing that the “masses” are a “bewildered herd” who should be “spectators” in the affairs of state but not “participants.”40

Very often, a casus belli (or war pretext) will be manufactured by leaders to coerce a peaceful population into accepting war, though intensive propaganda is often sufficient. In the modern age, covert agencies like the CIA have allowed for a more cost-effective and PR-friendly alternative to transparent military aggression. Black operations are especially useful for the United States because the over-arching propaganda narrative (“freedom,” “democracy,” “human rights”) is diametrically opposed to the brutal realities of American foreign policy. Eisenhower’s concept of the Military Industrial Complex is better described as the Military Industrial Intelligence Complex.

The vast gulf between propaganda and realpolitik can be seen in various internal memos by figures like US Cold Warrior and State Department official George Kennan. While American leaders publicly warned of an existential threat to democracy posed by the Soviet Union, Kennan’s 1948 memo to the Secretary of State cooly observes:

We should cease to talk about vague and unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts.41

Kennan helped to establish the Office of Policy Coordination inside CIA.42 Despite its intentionally bland title, the OPC specialized in black operations: assassinations, torture, coups, false flags. Its officers did in the dark “what would have never stood the light of day”43 in a self-proclaimed democracy committed to freedom and human rights. After the attacks of 9/11, these tactics were brought out into the open – a dangerous gambit that has undermined America’s moral legitimacy both at home and abroad.

According to former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, the “neoconservatives” who would come to dominate the George W. Bush and Obama administrations were described by fellow analysts – in the 1970′s/80′s – as “The Crazies.”44 The neocons openly argued for war as a way of life, and for the projection of American power into every corner of the globe.

“Ideas do not succeed in history by virtue of their truth,” writes sociologist Peter Berger, “but by virtue of their relationship to specific social processes.”45 Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and coinciding with the increasing power of the Israeli Lobby, the neocon philosophy suddenly became not so crazy after all. It now had utility, and was widely accepted.

The philosophical “Godfather” of the neoconservative movement was the philosopher Leo Strauss. Born in Germany of Jewish parents, he emigrated to the United States and took up a teaching political science at the University of Chicago. Despite his lineage, Strauss’ teachings bear a disturbing similarity to those of the Nazis.

Shadia Drury, a political scientist at the University of Calgary, writes that Strauss believed in “perpetual war” and “an aggressive, belligerent foreign policy… Following Machiavelli, [Strauss] maintained that if no external threat exists then one has to be manufactured.”46

For liberals and progressives, neoconservatism is the current Bete noir of American politics. In alleged contrast to the realist school, neoconservative are deemed idealistic, irrational, even insane, yet also uniquely ruthless and cunning.

In his book Reclaiming Conservatism, Mickey Edwards of the Aspen Institute argues that “Neoconservatives are driven by theoretical objectives, and by a moral or ethical compass that fails to take into account the complexities of world politics, [whereas] adherents to a Realpolitik foreign policy often seem to have no moral compass at all.”47

Apart from different propaganda narratives, the reader can be forgiven for failing to notice a significant difference between the neocons and their alleged ideological opponents in the American power structure. In terms of real world outcomes, what we actually find is a remarkable degree of uniformity between “realists” and “neoconservatives,” Democrats and Republicans, with foreign policy differences amounting to a friendly disagreement over exactly how to go about maintaining and expanding US hegemony. Increasingly, Democratic politicians such as Hillary Clinton are being described as “neocons” despite having no historical attachments to Strauss or his philosophy. This indicates a certain level of cognitive dissonance amongst the party faithful; unable to come to terms with the failure of the state capitalist model, they attribute the American empire not to structural factors but a diabolical clique that has usurped American power from its proper guardians.

A much more compelling and historically consistent explanation for the remarkable continuity between Democrat and Republican regimes has already been provided: the logic of power is power. For the half-a-million Iraqi children who perished under the sanctions program of Democrat Bill Clinton, or the similar number who perished under the Republican George W. Bush, the distinctions between philosophies of empire are meaningless. The ideological framework for imperialism may change, but the game remains the same.

In Love with Death

The Power Principle demands that the class that holds power attempts to retain and expand that power. Therefore, ruling classes within one nation find themselves in conflict not only with domestic populations but other nation states. The greatest fear of those who hold power is Anarchy – the loss of control by those who exercise it.

For neoconservatives like Irving Kristol, the 60′s counter-culture was an outbreak of “moral anarchy,” which, if it had been allowed to continue, would have led to the collapse of “ordered liberty.”48

Externally the same principles apply. “Realist” Zbigniew Brzezinski argues: “America’s withdrawal from the world… would produce massive international instability. It would prompt global anarchy.”49

When I asked the late historian Howard Zinn what he thought of the word “anarchy” being used as a synonym for chaos, he suggested that anarchic systems are actually much more stable than hierarchical systems. Anarchism is based on horizontal principles of free association and mutual aid, whereas hierarchical systems demand coercion and violence. “Our political systems are in chaos,” Zinn stated. “International relations are in chaos.”14 In the desire to dominate others in order to prevent chaos, chaos is the result.

It is by no means certain that chaos is considered undesirable by military strategists, provided it serves to weaken the opposition. In his “Strategy for Israel in the 1980′s,” Israeli strategic planner Oded Yinon advocated the fomenting of civil war throughout the entire middle east. Arabs would be turned against one another on the basis of nation, religion and ethnicity in order to increase Israel’s relative power.50

In countries like Iraq, Syria and Libya (or indeed Guatemala, El Salvador, Indonesia and Vietnam) we see the fruits of such strategies. Genocidal violence is not merely an unfortunate byproduct of well-intentioned plans for regime change but a goal in and of itself. It weakens competitors, and is therefore deemed justified. Human life has neither a positive nor a negative value, it is simply irrelevant – another number in the calculus of power.

Former Defence Secretary Robert McNamara, the so-called “architect of the Vietnam war,” was obsessed with mathematics. “He was so impressed by the logic of statistics that he tried to calculate how many deaths it would take to bring North Vietnam to the bargaining table.”51 Millions of Vietnamese people were slaughtered by bullets and bombs, burnt with napalm, poisoned by Agent Orange; yet for the man who helped design the war, they were little more but numbers on a chalkboard. McNamara argued that US violence in Vietnam was preferable to the “complete anarchy” that might otherwise result.14

The psychologist Eric Fromm suggested that the desire to control and dominate may produce a necrophilous orientation. Such people are “cold, distant, devotees of ‘law and order’”52 who are excited not by love but death.

The necrophilous person is driven by the desire to transform the organic into the inorganic, to approach life mechanically, as if all living persons were things…

He is deeply afraid of life, because it is disorderly and uncontrollable by its very nature. To the necrophilous person justice means correct division, and they are willing to kill or die for the sake of what they call justice. ‘Law and order’ for them are idols, and everything that threatens law and order is felt as a satanic attack against their supreme values.

…People are aware of the possibility of nuclear war; they are aware of the destruction such a war could bring with it – and yet they seemingly make no effort to avoid it. Most of us are puzzled by this behaviour because we start out from the premise that people love life and fear death. Perhaps we should be less puzzled if we questioned this premise. Maybe there are many people who are indifferent to life and many others who do not love life but who do love death.52

That many of our most beloved military figures had or have a necrophilous orientation is plainly evident. Observing the corpses and ruined architecture following a battle during WWII, George Patton remarked, “I love it. God help me I do love it so. I love it more than my life.”53

The actor Richard Burton, who played Sir Winston Churchill in a television drama, became repulsed by the figure:

In the course of preparing myself… I realized afresh that I hate Churchill and all of his kind. I hate them virulently. They have stalked down the corridors of endless power all through history… What man of sanity would say on hearing of the atrocities committed by the Japanese against British and Anzac prisoners of war, ‘We shall wipe them out, everyone of them, men, women, and children. There shall not be a Japanese left on the face of earth’? Such simple-minded cravings for revenge leave me with a horrified but reluctant awe for such single-minded and merciless ferocity.54

In Churchill’s desire to “wipe out” the “Japanese race” we sense a sort of mania bordering on sadistic perversion. Indeed, on the other side of the conflict, Imperial Japan took sadistic perversion in warfare to horrifying extremes. Hitler brought sado-masochism into his bedroom; a coprophiliac, he was sexually aroused by having young ladies defecate on his face. In so doing he became, in the words of historian Robert Waite, “the personification of [his own] depraved self, as the persecutor who attacks a part of himself in his victims.”55

Hitler believed that it was in doom that art reached its highest expression. Consumed by sado-masochism and narcissism, hiding at last in his bunker, he devoutly wished for all of Germany to die with him. Afforded the opportunity, Western military leaders may well opt for global conflagration rather than conceding a diminution in their power.

The Tyranny of Borders

For Cold War General Curtis Lemay and nuclear strategist Herman Khan, it seemed perfectly logical to risk the annihilation of the human race in order to “win” the game against the Soviet Union. Missing in their analysis was that the game itself was insane.

The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently concluded that climate change could pose an irreversible, existential threat to civilization.56 Among the few American military strategists who commented on the report was retired Army Brig. Gen Chris King. Echoing the conclusions of the Pentagon’s leaked 2004 report on global warming, King emphasized that increased military conflict would seem to be the inevitable outcome of environmental collapse: “This is like getting embroiled in a war that lasts 100 years… You can see in military history, when they don’t have fixed durations, that’s when you’re most likely to not win.”56

Another American military figure, retired Navy Rear Adm. David Titley, commented on the report:

You could imagine a scenario in which both Russia and China have prolonged droughts. China decides to exert rights on foreign contracts and gets assertive in Africa. If you start getting instability in large powers with nuclear weapons, that’s not a good day.56

I began this essay by noting that under the rules of state capitalism, it is rational to regard climate change and other environmental crises as probable force multipliers for interstate conflict. At the same time, militarists make a fundamental error in assuming that current forms of hierarchical organization will continue on indefinitely. Institutional hierarchy has only existed for about 1% of our time on Planet Earth. There is every reason to believe that hierarchical organization, far from being inevitable, is actually unnatural for human beings insofar as it creates massive social dysfunction.

In The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better, Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett demonstrate statistically that more equal societies “enjoy better physical and mental health, lower homicide rates, fewer drug problems, fewer teenage births, higher math and literacy scores, higher stands of child wellbeing, less bullying in schools, lower obesity rates, and few people in prison.”57

Equally interesting, the psychological malaise caused by hierarchy extends to the men and women at the top of society’s pyramid. In The Good Life: Wellbeing and the New Science of Altruism, Selfishness and Immorality, psychotherapist Graham Music notes that “The higher up the social-class ranking people are, the less pro-social, charitable and empathetically they behave… Those with more materialistic values consistently have worse relationships, with more conflict.”58

If the assumptions inherent to state capitalism continue to be shared by majorities or large minorities, environmental collapse will likely entail an increase in intra-species violence, exactly as the militarists predict; however, as our rulers are quick to point out in their internal literature, in crisis there is opportunity. Environmental degradation may also force people to examine alternative ways of living, including those currently deemed “utopian.”

War, poverty, environmental collapse and other catastrophes of modern existence are inextricably linked. “The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist,” states capitalist ideologue Thomas Friedman. “McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the F-15.”59

“Globalization” has entailed a dual tendency: increased border militarization combined with the growth of powerful supranational institutions. While capital is increasingly liquid – penetrating borders with the mere click of a mouse – 99% of humanity remains confined within nation states. The dominant media has portrayed this process as one of increased border erasure, yet the reality is that borders have never been more militarized. The logic of increased “border security” in the era of elite globalization is explained by the anthropologist David Graeber:

If it were not possible to effectively imprison the majority of people in the world in impoverished enclaves, there would be no incentive for Nike or The Gap to move production there to begin with. Given a free movement of people, the whole neoliberal project would collapse. This is another thing to bear in mind when people talk about the decline of ‘sovereignty’ in the contemporary world: the main achievement of the nation-state in the last century has been the establishment of a uniform grid of heavily policed barriers across the world. It is precisely this international system of control that we are fighting against, in the name of genuine globalization.60

Though David Rockefeller is often accused of conspiring to engineer a “world government,” he remarked in a 2007 interview with Benjamin Fulford that be believed states are necessary, and that he does not view World Government as likely nor desirable.61 Nevertheless, in his memoirs, Rockefeller clearly states that he is a proud “internationalist.”

Rockefeller’s brand of internationalism is consistent with the rise of supranational institutions like the EU, the IMF and World Bank. The goal is not the elimination of borders but the elimination of any semblance of democratic control over elites. The state has come to function as the ultimate divide and conquer mechanism, reducing the human species to a series of artificial, warring tribes serving a decidedly unpatriotic transnational ruling class.

Government as Constant Reconquest

Thus far I have conceived of warfare primarily in terms of external competition. But internal competition is at least as important. The American dissident philosopher Randolph Bourne believed that war is not only a primary function of the state but the health of the state. At the outbreak of WWI he wrote:

The nation in wartime attains a uniformity of feeling, a hierarchy of values culminating at the undisputed apex of the State ideal, which could not possibly be produced through any other agency than war. Loyalty – or mystic devotion to the State – becomes the major imagined human value. Other values, such as artistic creation, knowledge, reason, beauty, the enhancement of life, are instantly and almost unanimously sacrificed, and the significant classes who have constituted themselves the amateur agents of the State are engaged not only in sacrificing these values for themselves but in coercing all other persons into sacrificing them.62

The domestic repercussions of war are typically regarded as an unintended consequence or happy accident for the ruling class; in the process of engaging in imperialism, or defending a population against imperialism, the state must neutralize subversive elements.

Neoconservative philosopher Leo Strauss believed the opposite: domestic control is the imperative, war the effect:

Because mankind is intrinsically wicked, he has to be governed… Such governance can only be established, however, when men are united – and they can only be united against other people.46

In 1984, Orwell also conceived of war in terms of domestic utility:

In some ways she was far more acute than Winston, and far less susceptible to Party propaganda. Once when he happened in some connection to mention the war against Eurasia, she startled him by saying casually that in her opinion the war was not happening. The rocket bombs which fell daily on London were probably fired by the Government of Oceania itself, ‘just to keep the people frightened.’63

Viewed through a macroscopic lens, the perceived separation between “domestic” and “foreign” is an illusion. There is no race except the human race, no nation except the world.

Does this mean we should embrace a world state?

Before examining the question, we should ask ourselves exactly what the state is.

In contrast to coercion theories of state formation, which argue that the first states were only beneficial to a privileged minority, and were achieved through a process of violence, conservative theories argue that the state was brought about through a process of “mutual benefit” and “consent of the governed.” Though understandably popular amongst apologists for state violence, conservative models are easily dismissed. As noted by the anthropologist James C. Scott:

…all ancient states without exception were slave states. The proportion of slaves seldom dropped below 30 per cent of the population in early states, reaching 50 per cent in early South-East Asia (and in Athens and Sparta as much as 70 and 86 per cent)…slaving was at the very centre of state-making.64

The state is a new phenomenon in the human experience. But what of warfare itself?

In his book A Terrible Love of War, American psychologist James Hillman argues that war “is the father of all things,” “the first of all norms” and “the ultimate truth of the cosmos.”53 For militarists, this view is a comfortable one: war is inevitable, it has always existed and always will. Another prominent psychologist, Harvard Professor Steven Pinker, has also advanced a “Constant warfare” theory of human evolution, suggesting that civilization and the state have actually diminished war, pacifying our instinctually savage, warlike ways. Like conservative theories of state formation, Pinker’s theories are easily debunked.65

In Archaeology, Cultural Anthropology, and the Origins and Intensification of War, Ferguson analyzes worldwide evidence of violence before 10,000 years ago. He finds that while violence certainly existed, it was comparatively rare, and in no way indicative of war. Thus, a study of all skeletons available from 100,000-10,000 in southwestern France finds that only 2.5% show any signs of fractures – and even these could have been caused by accidental injury. In the Middle East, amongst 370 skeletons from the Natufian (10,800-8,500 BC), only 2 showed signs of trauma.66 Similar patterns are evident throughout the world:

Warfare is largely a development of the past 10,000 years. The multiple archaeological indicators of war are absent until the development of a more sedentary existence and/or increasing sociopolitical complexity, usually in combination with some form of ecological crisis and/or steep ecological gradients.67

Ethnographies of extant nomadic hunter-gatherers help to explain why war would have made little sense to our forebears. Anthropologist Douglas P. Fry writes:

The very nature of nomadic-band social organization makes warfare, slavery, or despotic rule well-nigh impossible. The small social units lack the ability to engage in large-scale slaughter—and since positions of authoritative leadership are also lacking, there is nothing to plunder, tools and weapons are rudimentary, and population density is extremely low. The archaeological facts speak clearly, showing for particular geographic areas exactly when war began.  And in all cases this was recent, not ancient activity—occurring after complex forms of social organization supplanted nomadic hunting and gathering.68

The cause of hierarchy and warfare is disputed, but a common explanation is the shift from nomadic bands to sedentary tribes; when these new domesticated forms combined with technological innovation and increased social complexity, the result was the state. Engels long ago suggested that agriculture was a primary determinant; it allowed for surplus, which in turn gave rise to social classes. In The Evolution of Political Society, Morton Fried points out that extreme social stratification is inherently unstable; thus, in any large hierarchical society, an organization with a monopoly on “warfare and killing” is required.69

The state has attempted to effect a reconciliation between different classes by arrogating to itself a monopoly on “legitimate” violence. Yet violence alone is not sufficient. Ideologically, the “religion” of the state is nationalism. In lieu of class analysis, nationalism is successful because it appeals to primal human desires for solidarity and belonging, as well as fear of the unknown (“outsiders”). Fear of outsiders is deliberately cultivated by rulers in order to mystify the real cause of the people’s discontent (namely rulers themselves), especially during times of economic/environmental crisis. Ultimately, the state has come to function as a sort of artificial surrogate for real community.

The textbook A Short History of War, provided to students at the US Army War College, is surprisingly candid about the state’s role as surrogate not only for community but spirituality and even “God”:

The aggregation of large numbers of people into complex societies required that those living within them refocus their allegiances away from the extended family, clan, and tribe, and toward a larger social entity, the state. This psychological change was facilitated by the rise of religious castes that gave meaning to the individual’s life beyond a parochial context. Organized belief systems were integrated into the social order and given institutional expression through public rituals that linked religious worship to political and military objectives that were national in scope and definition. Thus, the Egyptian pharaoh became divine, and military achievements of great leaders were perceived as divinely ordained or inspired.70

The role of state as surrogate helps to explain why the popularity of state leaders tends to rise – often dramatically – during times of war. George W. Bush began his presidential term with an approval rating of 50%; following 9/11, that number skyrocketed to 92% (the highest number ever recorded for an American president since modern polling began).71 The “rally around the chief” effect is no secret, and has been satirized in several Hollywood films such as Canadian Bacon and Wag the Dog.

Though egalitarianism alone is not sufficient to bring about peace (sedentary tribal societies often engaged in war, albeit on a far lesser scale than state societies), it is a necessary precondition for the simple reason that the perceived interests of rulers are often radically different – and even diametrically opposed – to those of their subjects. Nowhere is this more apparent than during times of violent conflict. Leaders are celebrated and aggrandized even as their subjects are oppressed and slaughtered. Indeed, Anthropologist R. Brian Ferguson has gone so far as to suggest that hierarchy may be the the most fundamental cause of war.

…My view is that in most cases — not every single one — the decision to wage war involves the pursuit of practical self-interest by those who actually make the decision. The struggle can be joined over basic subsistence resources, but it can just as easily erupt over goods available only to elites.
…Not only do these leaders experience vastly different costs, benefits and powers in war, leaders may literally require successful war to establish and maintain rule.72

In Ferguson’s view, the problem is not limited to competition over resources but the manner in which such competition – or lack thereof – is expressed.

Since a world government would constitute the apotheosis of hierarchical organization, such an entity could not possibly put an end to war (which is, after all, simply organized killing by one group of humans against another). If a world state came into existence, propaganda models could simply be reconfigured to reflect the new cultural dynamic: internal enemies would replace external enemies, creating something akin to civil war on a global scale.

The Austrian philosopher Leopold Kohr, who was especially concerned with the problem of size in human social structures, found the prospect of world government positively chilling:

The process of unification, far from reducing the dangers of war, seems the very thing that increases them. For, the larger a power becomes, the more is it in a position to build up its strength to the point where it becomes spontaneously explosive. But not only does unification breed wars by creating war potentials; it needs war in the very process of its establishment. As states did not come into existence by natural development but by conquest, so they cannot maintain themselves except by conquest – the constant reconquest of their own citizens through a flow of patriotic propaganda setting in at the cradle and ending only at the grave.73

Kohr rejected the idea of artificial unity in favour of harmony, which he regarded as the natural order of the universe. The unity of a world government would need to be imposed, if for no other reason than consensus between different regions would be impossible (imagine, for a moment, attempting to create a system of law incorporating the Mbuti Pygmies of the Ituri rainforest; the people of Waco, Texas; the Inuit; and the Pashtun tribes of Afghanistan and Pakistan). The result would not be the end of war but the constant reconquest of the global citizenry.

Conceivably, as technology advances, a logical solution for the ruling class to the “problem” of cultural differentiation, “surplus population” and rebellion may be the deliberate culling of the human race. This seems to have been one of the great fears of the brilliant yet homicidal primitivist Ted Kaczynski (aka the Unabomber), who wrote:

Due to improved techniques the elite will have greater control over the masses and because human work will no longer be necessary, the masses will be superfluous, a useless burden on the system; if the elite is ruthless, they may simply decide to exterminate the mass of humanity.74

There is no question that our elite is “ruthless” (over a thousand children die every day due to easily treatable diseases) so we can put aside moral conundrums. Interestingly, the quotation of Kaczynski has been cited by leading trans-humanists such as Ray Kurzweil, who currently works as Google’s Director of Engineering. Bill Joy of Wired magazine also cites the quote in his article “Why the Future doesn’t need us,” sub headed, “Our most powerful 21st-century technologies – robotics, genetic engineering, and nano tech – are threatening to make humans an endangered species”.74

The Path to Peace: Correcting the Power Imbalance

Now that we have examined what won’t work, we can start imagining real alternatives to the present system of state competition.

As we have seen, the greatest fear of world leaders in anarchy.

Though the term is falsely equated with violent chaos, Anarchy is defined by Noam Chomsky as “the closest you can get to pure democracy.”14 Chomsky also interprets anarchism as a “set of principles” rather than an a pure ideology. The word itself derives from the Greek Anarkos meaning “without rulers.” Rather than electing a politician who makes decisions for you, anarchists believe that decision-making capacities should lie with the people affected by those decisions.

It is often said that if politicians had to fight in wars, there would be no more war. By the same measure, if the CEO of a company polluting a water source was forced to drink that water daily, he or she would presumably be much less likely to dismiss concerns about water pollution. A key issue is accountability. Under our present system, our “leaders” have none. Indeed, we have managed to create a system whereby we begrudgingly elect the most depraved, venal individuals in society to rule over us.

In 2012, The Atlantic published an article entitled, “The Startling Accuracy of Referring to Politicians as Psychopaths.” Noting that “Psychopathy is a psychological condition based on well-established diagnostic criteria, which include lack of remorse and empathy, a sense of grandiosity, superficial charm, cunning and manipulative behaviour, and refusal to take responsibility for one’s actions, among others,” the article goes on to state that psychopaths may in fact be “particularly well suited” for careers in politics.75

Debates continue over whether what we call psychopathy is bio-genetic or culturally programmed (or some combination of the two), but there can be no disputing the fact that when it comes to the well-being of the majority, our “leaders” are at best disinterested and very often downright malevolent. This is well understood, even in the United States. Polls demonstrate that the Congress – which is imagined by orthodox political scientists to be a “check” on power – has an approval rating roughly on par with cockroaches.76

Instead of centralized power and competition, anarchists advocate decentralization and cooperation. Decentralized communities can be federated horizontally, thus ensuring stability through a low center of gravity rather than the precarious, ever-shifting power configurations of top-down rule. Anarchism does not demand a “one size fits all” model, and therefore embraces the organic rather than the mechanical.

Above all, anarchism demands equality; human beings should not be permitted to dominate their fellows.

In The Relevance of Anarchism to Modern Society, Sam Dolgoff writes:

Federation is the coordination through free agreement – locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. A vast coordinated network of voluntary alliances embracing the totality of social life, in which all the groups and associations reap the benefits of unity while still exercising autonomy within their own spheres and expanding the range of their freedom.77

Paradoxically, for some “small a” anarchists, the state itself may be a tool. It can be used to protect the public against private power, create more equitable social conditions, and help facilitate horizontal power through participatory democracy. Some Latin American anarchists have described this process as “expanding the floor of the cage.”78

Other anarchists want little or nothing to do with the state, and believe in acting outside of official political channels. This is the traditional tendency amongst anarchists, and requires no explication.

The concepts of anarcho-pluralism and Pan-Secessionism seek “radical localism” and “the simple territorial withdrawal withdrawal of regions and localities and renunciation of the central state by secessionists.”79

Though anarcho-X-adjective strategies differ significantly, in common with all anarchists is a desire to prevent social dominance hierarchies whereby a privileged class is permitted to oppress the majority. Viewed globally, such oppression takes on the form of genocide and war.

The first step in solving a problem is to admit that there is a problem. For the majority, the state and its armies are viewed as a necessary evil. They are imagined to be required, at minimum, to defend populations from aggression by other states. This seemingly rational belief has produced the irrational consequence of possible near term extinction. Once we begin – as a global community – to conceive of states, as well as capitalism, as unnecessary and indeed harmful constructs, we can start to build alternatives from the bottom up. A pessimist view would regard such radical change as unlikely absent a massive global awakening. Yet such an awakening is not far-fetched, if for no other reason than current socio-economic models are unsustainable. Even a fatalist interpretation offers hope – that if humanity survives the coming calamities, our descendants may not automatically repeat the mistakes of our hierarchical, violent age. Anarchism will return us to our basic survival mechanisms as a species – cooperation, equality and peace.

  1. Mark Townsend and Paul Harris, “Now the Pentagon tells Bush: climate change will destroy us” The Observer (22 February 2004). []
  2. George Ritzer, The McDonaldization of Society (London: SAGE Publications, 1998): 12. []
  3. Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince (1513): Chapter 15. [] []
  4. John Bew, “The Real Origins of Realpolitik.” []
  5. Mikhail Bakunin, “The Immorality of the State.” [] [] []
  6. Gregory G. Brunk, Donald Secrest, Ioward Tamashiro, Understanding Attitudes about War (University of Pittsburg Press, 1996): 37. []
  7. Nicholas Hagger, The World Government (John Hunt Publishing, 2010): 30. []
  8. Brad MacDonald, “President Obama and the Phone Call that Endangered America” The Trumpet (17 October 2013). []
  9. Paul Lashmar, “Stranger than ‘Strangelove’: A General’s Forays into the Nuclear Zone,” Washington Post (3 July 1994): C9. [] []
  10. Louis Menand, “Fat Man: Herman Kahn and the Nuclear Age” The New Yorker (27 June 2005). []
  11. Marion Lloyd, “Soviets Close to Using A-Bomb in 1962 Crisis, Forum is Told” Boston Globe (Retrieved 7 August 2012): A20. []
  12. Burrell’s Information Service, “War Games,” Dateline NBC (November 12, 2000). []
  13. Alan F. Philips, “20 Mishaps That Might Have Started Accidental Nuclear War.” []
  14. The Power Principle. Directed by Scott Noble (Metanoia Films, 2012). [] [] [] [] [] [] []
  15. J. Peter Scoblic, “Robert McNamara’s Logical Legacy.” []
  16. Bo Filter, “Slaying Goliath: Give David a Stone.” []
  17. Christopher Boehm, Hierarchy in the Forest: The Evolution of Egalitarian Behaviour (Harvard University Press, 2009): 5. []
  18. Boehm, 68. []
  19. Boehm, 50. []
  20. Boehm, 74. []
  21. Boehm, 98. []
  22. Noam Chomsky, “Consent Without Consent.” []
  23. Morris Berman, The Reenchantment of the World (Cornell University Press, 1981): 506. []
  24. Leopold Kohr, “The Power Theory of Aggression,” Panarchy. []
  25. Claire Shipman, “Gorbachev: ‘Americans Have a Severe Disease’,” ABC News (21 July 2006). []
  26. “Excerpts from Pentagon’s Plan: ‘Prevent the Re-Emergence of a New Rival’,” New York Times (8 March 1992). []
  27. Mike Whitney, “Showdown in Ukraine.” []
  28. “BRIC wants more influence,” Euronews (21 June 2009). []
  29. Greg Miller, “CIA ramping up covert training program for moderate Syrian rebels,” Washington Post, (2 October 2013). []
  30. “Hamas will not come to Iran’s aid in a case of war with Israel: official,” Al Arabiya (13 April 2014). []
  31. Jonathan Cook, “‘Mad dog’ diplomacy: A cornered Israel is baring its teeth.” []
  32. Felicity Arbuthnot, “Attack Iran? Nuclear Insanity,” Dissident Voice. []
  33. Norman G. Finkelstein, “Israel is Now a Lunatic State.” []
  34. Patrick Buchanan, “Marching as to War.” []
  35. NATO takes measures to reinforce collective defence, agrees on support for Ukraine.” []
  36. Michael Parenti, “The Rational Destruction of Yugoslavia.” []
  37. “Singer James Blunt ‘prevented World War III’,” BBC (14 November 2010). []
  38. “Singer James Blunt ‘prevented World War III’” BBC (14 November 2010). []
  39. Robert Dodge, “Budgets as Moral Documents.” []
  40. Noam Chomsky, “Force and Opinion.” [] []
  41. Noam Chomsky, Turning the Tide: U.S. Interventions in Central America (South End Press, 1985): 48. []
  42. Sarah-Jane Corke, “George Kennan and the Inauguration of Political Warfare.” []
  43. See Bill Moyers, “The Secret Government.” []
  44. American Intelligence Analysts Have a Patriotic Duty to Speak out and Transcend the Cult of Secrecy: An Interview with Ray McGovern,” Dissident Voice. []
  45. Peter Berger, “Towards a Sociological Understanding of Psychoanalysis,” Social Research, 32 (Spring 1965): 32. []
  46. Jim Lobe, “Leo Strauss’ Philosophy of Deception.” [] []
  47. Mickey Edwards, Reclaiming Conservatism (Oxford University Press, 2008): 141. []
  48. Ira Chernus, “Ukraine plus Flight 370 = Bad news for Neocons.” []
  49. Chris Erenesto, “The Eurasian Chessboard: Brzezinski Mapped Out ‘The Battle for Ukraine’ in 1997.” []
  50. Israel Shahak, “Greater Israel: The Zionist Plan for the Middle East.” []
  51. David K. Shipler, “Robert McNamara and the Ghosts of Vietnam,” New York Times Magazine (10 August 1997). []
  52. Eric Fromm, The Heart of Man: Its Genius for Good and Evil: 37. [] []
  53. Gracy Trosclair, “War’s Attraction: Love or Fascination?.” [] []
  54. Howard Zinn, Howard Zinn on War (Seven Stories Press, 2001): 194. []
  55. Robert G.L. Waite, The Psychopathic God: Adolf Hitler (Da Cap Press, 1993): 241. []
  56. Eric Holthaus, “‘Climate Change War’ Is Not a Metaphor,” Slate. [] [] []
  57. Richard Wilkinson, “In Defence of Equality.” []
  58. Tanya Gold, “How Materialism Makes us Sad.” []
  59. John Pilger, The New Rulers of the World (Verso, 2002): 114. []
  60. David Graeber, “The New Anarchists,” New Left Review (January-February 2002). []
  61. Benjamin Fulford Interview with David Rockefeller. []
  62. Randolph Bourne, “War is the Health of the State” (1918). []
  63. George Orwell, 1984 (1949): 127. []
  64. James C. Scott, “Crops, Towns, Government.” []
  65. See Brian Ferguson, “Pinker’s List.” []
  66. Comments on Pinker’s History of Violence.” []
  67. Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, “Reality Denial: Apologetics for Western-Imperial Violence,” Dissident Voice. []
  68. Douglas P. Fry, “Peace in Our Time.” []
  69. Keith F. Otterbein, How War Began (Texas A&M University Press, 2004): 100. []
  70. Richard A. Gabriel and Karen S. Metz, A Short History of War (Professional Readings in Military Strategy, No. 5, 1992): Chapter 1. []
  71. Behind the Numbers: Approval Highs and Lows,” Washington Post. []
  72. R. Brian Ferguson, “The Birth of War.” []
  73. Leopold Kohr, “The Power Theory of Aggression.” []
  74. Bill Joy, “Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us,” Wired. [] []
  75. James Silver, “The Startling Accuracy of Referring to Politicians as Psychopaths” The Atlantic (31 July 2012). []
  76. Congress somewhere below cockroaches, traffic jams, and Nickelback in Americans’ esteem,” Public Policy Polling, 2013. []
  77. Sam Dolgoff, The Relevance of Anarchism to Modern Society (AK Press, 1 Jan 1989). []
  78. “Expanding the floor of the cage: Noam Chomsky interviewed by David Barsamiam,” Z Magazine (April 1997). []
  79. Keith Preston, “Anarcho-Pluralism and Pan-Secessionism: What they are and what they are not.” []

 

 

 

In Defence Of Inaction

In Uncategorized on May 5, 2014 at 6:40 pm

https://i0.wp.com/images.travelpod.com/tw_slides/ta01/48f/ffe/man-in-hammock-hanoi.jpgOldspeak: “Increasing concentration of power doesn’t mean is that there is an ‘elite’ in control of everything in our society. Vast wealth and power does not translate to control, especially in a world where all our systems are collapsing simultaneously….The rich and powerful are as much prisoners of these massive, complex, crumbling systems, as much cogs in the machine, as the rest of us: they just get better wages and benefits than the rest of the inmates, and will until the systems fall apart, at which time they’ll be no better off than anyone else….No one is in control. The enemy, if there is one, is not a cabal of elites, but a set of co-dependent collapsing systems that every one of us has a vested interest in trying (insanely) to perpetuate. Systems we have all helped co-create and are almost all dependent on… We cannot hope to ‘fix’ these systems through political or economic or legal or educational reform, or putting some more democratically-minded group ‘in control’ of them. Fighting for possession of the steering wheel of a car careering over a cliff cannot produce useful change. Even trying to bring down our economic systems before they do even more damage is probably futile: It’s unlikely to significantly accelerate, mitigate or delay the inevitable collapse, and I’m not sure its effect on catastrophic climate change would be substantial either. There is simply no point trying to change any of these systems; it’s a waste of time, and, as Buddha said “Our problem is we think we have time.” But some would insist we try anyway, so at least “we can say we tried”. I think that’s a pathetic argument…So here we sit, all of us, rich and poor, powerful and powerless, with no real ‘rights’ or ‘freedoms’, no hope of ‘reforming’ massive, self-reinforcing and entrenched systems utterly out of our control, coming apart because they are totally unsustainable, and no credible knowledge of what might work to even mitigate the imminent and catastrophic end of the industrial ‘growth’ economy, the end of the all-too-brief age of abundant cheap energy, and the end of a short few millennia of astonishingly stable climate…. The question we must each ask ourselves, I think, is this: If we acknowledge that our systems and hence our civilization cannot be reformed or ‘saved’, what can we do now that will make a real difference, for the future, in our communities and for those we love?  The insanely rational answer to this question, I think, is (a) probably nothing, and (b) it’s too early to know….So if I seem impatient or annoyed when you ask me to be outraged or supportive in your movement to reform civilization, I’m sorry. I think it’s too late.” -Dave Pollard

‘With each passing day of business as usual “civilization”, growing, hyper-consuming, destroying, depleting, poisoning, emitting, our fate becomes all the more certain. ignore all the hopium propaganda from the white savior industrial complex telling you we have time to avoid the worst effects of what’s to come. There is no “fighting against” or “mitigation”, “carbon capture”, “geo-engineeering” plan that is going to make things better, if anything, these hare-brained schemes will make things worse.  it’s too late. We’re fucked. Be in the Eternal Now and love unconditionally.” -OSJ

By Dave Pollard @ How To Save The World:

I have, of late, had a falling out with many of my fellow ‘progressives’, similar I suppose to that of Paul Kingsnorth, who is being savaged by Naomi Klein and others for giving up on the environmental movement and non-local activism, and by humanists for losing faith in our species’ capacity for innovation and change.

I should say at the outset that I agree that our political and economic and legal and educational and social systems are dreadful, unfair, teetering, and totally inadequate to our needs. I agree that this is a world of horrific inequality, inequitable and unjust privilege, massive suffering, and outrageous patriarchy. I agree that corporatism and corruption and propagandist media are rampant and destructive and destabilizing. I agree that militarized police and torture prisons and drone killing and massive global surveillance are repugnant and a fundamental threat to our personal safety and security and the very principles upon which our nations are founded.

And I fully acknowledge that the fact I’m white, male, boomer generation and relatively wealthy provides me with enormous privilege compared to others, including relative freedom of movement, freedom from fear of harrassment and assault, and greater social, political and economic opportunity.

But when I hear arguments that “we need” to stand up for our ‘inherent’ rights and freedoms, and wrest ‘control’ of the levers of power from the obscenely wealthy elite, and denounce and protest injustice and inequality, and acknowledge and renounce our role as privileged oppressors, as the first steps to a true social revolution in and political and economic reform, leading, somehow, to a radical redistribution of wealth and power, and a more just society, I am reduced to despair.

I used to believe people, and perhaps some other creatures, had ‘rights’ and ‘freedoms’. I believed that someone was in control. I believed there were answers to the predicaments we face.

But now I realize that there are no rights or freedoms. The concept of rights and freedoms is a sop that the rich and powerful of this world use to appease the fury and frustration of the poor and disenfranchised. The ‘granting’ of rights and freedoms means nothing, because they can be and are taken away whenever those in power choose to do so, and are simply ignored when they interfere with the exercise of power or accumulation of wealth by those who allowed them to be granted.

We don’t have freedom of expression, or speech, or assembly: Under the current surveillance state I can be stopped, arrested, held indefinitely and incommunicado, tortured, ‘disappeared’ or simply killed, by a drone or in a secret gulag, whenever someone in power decides I’m a threat to that power.

Likewise, there is no ‘upward mobility’ for just about any demographic segment of our human population worldwide; most people are trapped, socially and economically, right where they are, no matter what may happen to the place where they live.

There is no true democracy, anywhere: the real decisions are made in secret meetings between bought politicians (many of them in power fraudulently or due to gerrymandering and other corruptions of the ‘democratic’ process), who represent only their rich and powerful donors, and the bankers, lawyers and corporate executives. The ‘laws’ and ‘regulations’ are just smokescreens to make it look as if the people’s interests are being considered.

There are no rights of recourse against corporate abuses: most industries are oligopolies, and corporate law is designed to protect them and their wealthy shareholders and executives from the wrath of outraged citizens, while enabling these corporations to sue citizens who pose any threat to their profits or ‘leadership’.

All that’s happened over the past three decades is that the illusion of rights and freedoms has largely disappeared, as those with wealth and power ratchet up the rhetoric that militarized police, torture prisons, ubiquitous surveillance and the oppression of dissent are ‘necessary’ for public safety and security (especially the safety and security of the rich and powerful).

There are no rights or freedoms. There is only power, and its exercise in the interest of further enriching the rich and further concentrating power.

I used to be outraged and angry about all this, but now I’m just letting it go. It’s just too easy to see this as a moral struggle, as a fight against pathology, greed, and tyranny. I don’t think it’s that simple. I think everyone’s really trying to do what they believe is best, not only for their loved ones but for everyone. I know some of these people, and their stubborn, destructive wrong-headedness is completely understandable to me (from their strange but deeply-held worldview).

Increasing concentration of power doesn’t mean is that there is an ‘elite’ in control of everything in our society. Vast wealth and power does not translate to control, especially in a world where all our systems are collapsing simultaneously: our economic systems, running on the fumes of belief in perpetual industrial growth; our nearly-exhausted energy and resource systems, utterly dependent on ample and cheap oil (one barrel of oil replaces 12 person-years of labour, and we currently use 100 million barrels per day); and our climate systems, which have long passed the tipping point to catastrophic change comparable to that of the ‘ice ages’ (though in the opposite temperature direction).

The rich and powerful are as much prisoners of these massive, complex, crumbling systems, as much cogs in the machine, as the rest of us: they just get better wages and benefits than the rest of the inmates, and will until the systems fall apart, at which time they’ll be no better off than anyone else.

No one is in control. The enemy, if there is one, is not a cabal of elites, but a set of co-dependent collapsing systems that every one of us has a vested interest in trying (insanely) to perpetuate. Systems we have all helped co-create and are almost all dependent on.

David Korowicz, in his study On the Cusp of Collapse, explains how our massively complex global human systems are far beyond the control of any coordinated group of people:

Our daily lives are dependent upon the coherence of thousands of direct interactions, which are themselves dependent upon trillions more interactions between things, businesses, institutions and individuals across the world. Following just one track; each morning I have coffee near where I work. The woman who serves me need not know who picked the berries, who moulded the polymer for the coffee maker, how the municipal system delivered the water to the café, how the beans made their journey or who designed the mug. The captain of the ship that transported the beans would have had no knowledge of who provided the export credit insurance for the shipment, who made the steel for the hull, or the steps in the complex processes that allow him the use of satellite navigation. And the steel-maker need not have known who built the pumps for the iron-ore mine, or how the oxygen for the furnace was refined.

We cannot hope to ‘fix’ these systems through political or economic or legal or educational reform, or putting some more democratically-minded group ‘in control’ of them. Fighting for possession of the steering wheel of a car careering over a cliff cannot produce useful change. Even trying to bring down our economic systems before they do even more damage is probably futile: It’s unlikely to significantly accelerate, mitigate or delay the inevitable collapse, and I’m not sure its effect on catastrophic climate change would be substantial either. There is simply no point trying to change any of these systems; it’s a waste of time, and, as Buddha said “Our problem is we think we have time.” But some would insist we try anyway, so at least “we can say we tried”. I think that’s a pathetic argument.

So here we sit, all of us, rich and poor, powerful and powerless, with no real ‘rights’ or ‘freedoms’, no hope of ‘reforming’ massive, self-reinforcing and entrenched systems utterly out of our control, coming apart because they are totally unsustainable, and no credible knowledge of what might work to even mitigate the imminent and catastrophic end of the industrial ‘growth’ economy, the end of the all-too-brief age of abundant cheap energy, and the end of a short few millennia of astonishingly stable climate.

The question we must each ask ourselves, I think, is this: If we acknowledge that our systems and hence our civilization cannot be reformed or ‘saved’, what can we do now that will make a real difference, for the future, in our communities and for those we love?

The insanely rational answer to this question, I think, is (a) probably nothing, and (b) it’s too early to know.

So if I seem impatient or annoyed when you ask me to be outraged or supportive in your movement to reform civilization, I’m sorry. I think it’s too late.

I’m in the process of writing a book of stories of how all of this might play out, just one scenario, the story of, in the short term, a Great Migration of billions of people towards the poles in search of livable habitat (what an amazing, terrifying and liberating journey that could be!), and, in the longer term, the blossoming of thousands of local communities, new and unimaginably diverse, self-sufficient, joyful and utterly alive human cultures, whose total impact on the planet will be, due to our much smaller numbers and minimal energy and technology resources, pretty insignificant. I need to write such a new story to be able to begin to let go of the old, civilized one.

Maybe that’s not enough. Maybe there’s more I could (I’ve stopped saying “should”) be doing: learning new essential skills and capacities, helping in the process of rediscovering how to build and live in community together, healing myself and helping others heal from the ravages of civilization’s innumerable, constant and monstrous stresses, and just trying to live a joyful, exemplary, modest and graceful life. I may get around to these things. But for now I’m just writing, watching, reflecting, trying to figure it all out.

It’s too early and too late, I think, to do anything more.

__________________________________________________________________________________________

 

Save The World, Work Less

In Uncategorized on April 25, 2014 at 7:39 pm

Oldspeak: “Most of us burn energy getting to and from work, stocking and powering our offices, and performing the myriad tasks that translate into digits on our paychecks. The challenge of working less is a societal one, not an individual mandate: How can we allow people to work less and still meet their basic needs?…. This goal of slowing down and spending less time at work — as radical as it may sound — was at the center of mainstream American political discourse for much of our history, considered by thinkers of all ideological stripes to be the natural endpoint of technological development. It was mostly forgotten here in the 1940s, strangely so, even as worker productivity increased dramatically….But it’s worth remembering now that we understand the environmental consequences of our growth-based economic system. Our current approach isn’t good for the health of the planet and its creatures, and it’s not good for the happiness and productivity of overworked Americans, so perhaps it’s time to revisit this once-popular idea…It isn’t just global warming that working less will help address, but a whole range of related environmental problems: loss of biodiversity and natural habitat; rapid depletion of important natural resources, from fossil fuel to fresh water; and the pollution of our environment with harmful chemicals and obsolete gadgets….Every day that the global workforce is on the job, those problems all get worse, mitigated only slightly by the handful of occupations devoted to cleaning up those messes….What I’m talking about is something more radical, a change that meets the daunting and unaddressed challenge that climate change is presenting. Let’s start the discussion in the range of a full day off to cutting our work hours in half — and eliminating half of the wasteful, exploitive, demeaning, make-work jobs that this economy-on-steroids is creating for us, and forcing us to take if we want to meet our basic needs….Taking even a day back for ourselves and our environment will seem like crazy-talk to many readers, even though our bosses would still command more days each week than we would. But the idea that our machines and other innovations would lead us to work far less than we do now — and that this would be a natural and widely accepted and expected part of economic evolution — has a long and esteemed philosophical history.” -Steven T. Jones

“While the assertion is nice, the fact is at this point, working less will not save the world. The deed is done. We’re fucked. But, at some point we have to seriously consider where this ethos of “Bigger, Faster, Stronger”, “More, More, More”, “GO GO GO”, “i’ll sleep when i’m dead” has gotten us. Mortally obese, neurosis-driven, overmedicated, hyperviolent, hyperaggressive, hypersexual, hyperconsumptive, fear filled, disconnected from our life-sustaining ecology…. This is not sustainable. Consider getting off the ever accelerating hamster wheel. There is nothing to be gained from working yourself to death but a dead planet and by extension, you. The trickle down economy of greed and growth can no longer animate our “civilization”.  “Workers of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains.” -Karl Marx. “Productivity” does not equal “Progress”. Your individual gains spell our collective annihilation. ” -OSJ

By Steven T. Jones @ SF Bay Guardian:

With climate change threatening life as we know it, perhaps it’s time to revive the forgotten goal of spending less time on our jobs.

Save the world, work less. That dual proposition should have universal appeal in any sane society. And those two ideas are inextricably linked by the realities of global climate change because there is a direct connection between economic activity and greenhouse gas emissions.

Simply put, every hour of work we do cooks the planet and its sensitive ecosystems a little bit more, and going home to relax and enjoy some leisure time is like taking this boiling pot of water off the burner.

Most of us burn energy getting to and from work, stocking and powering our offices, and performing the myriad tasks that translate into digits on our paychecks. The challenge of working less is a societal one, not an individual mandate: How can we allow people to work less and still meet their basic needs?

This goal of slowing down and spending less time at work — as radical as it may sound — was at the center of mainstream American political discourse for much of our history, considered by thinkers of all ideological stripes to be the natural endpoint of technological development. It was mostly forgotten here in the 1940s, strangely so, even as worker productivity increased dramatically.

But it’s worth remembering now that we understand the environmental consequences of our growth-based economic system. Our current approach isn’t good for the health of the planet and its creatures, and it’s not good for the happiness and productivity of overworked Americans, so perhaps it’s time to revisit this once-popular idea.

Last year, there was a brief burst of national media coverage around this “save the world, work less” idea, triggered by a report by the Washington DC-based Center for Economic and Policy Research, entitled “Reduced Work Hours as a Means of Slowing Climate Change.”

“As productivity grows in high-income, as well as developing countries, social choices will be made as to how much of the productivity gains will be taken in the form of higher consumption levels versus fewer work hours,” author David Rosnick wrote in the introduction.

He notes that per capita work hours were reduced by 50 percent in recent decades in Europe compared to US workers who spend as much time as ever on the job, despite being a world leader in developing technologies that make us more productive. Working more means consuming more, on and off the job.

“This choice between fewer work hours versus increased consumption has significant implications for the rate of climate change,” the report said before going on to study various climate change and economic growth models.

It isn’t just global warming that working less will help address, but a whole range of related environmental problems: loss of biodiversity and natural habitat; rapid depletion of important natural resources, from fossil fuel to fresh water; and the pollution of our environment with harmful chemicals and obsolete gadgets.

Every day that the global workforce is on the job, those problems all get worse, mitigated only slightly by the handful of occupations devoted to cleaning up those messes. The Rosnick report contemplates only a slight reduction in working hours, gradually shaving a few hours off the week and offering a little more vacation time.

“The paper estimates the impact on climate change of reducing work hours over the rest of the century by an annual average of 0.5 percent. It finds that such a change in work hours would eliminate about one-quarter to one-half of the global warming that is not already locked in (i.e. warming that would be caused by 1990 levels of greenhouse gas concentrations already in the atmosphere),” the report concludes.

What I’m talking about is something more radical, a change that meets the daunting and unaddressed challenge that climate change is presenting. Let’s start the discussion in the range of a full day off to cutting our work hours in half — and eliminating half of the wasteful, exploitive, demeaning, make-work jobs that this economy-on-steroids is creating for us, and forcing us to take if we want to meet our basic needs.

Taking even a day back for ourselves and our environment will seem like crazy-talk to many readers, even though our bosses would still command more days each week than we would. But the idea that our machines and other innovations would lead us to work far less than we do now — and that this would be a natural and widely accepted and expected part of economic evolution — has a long and esteemed philosophical history.

Perhaps this forgotten goal is one worth remembering at this critical moment in our economic and environmental development.

HISTORY LESSON

Author and historian Chris Carlsson has been beating the “work less” drum in San Francisco since Jimmy Carter was president, when he and his fellow anti-capitalist activists decried the dawning of an age of aggressive business deregulation that continues to this day.

They responded with creative political theater and protests on the streets of the Financial District, and with the founding of a magazine called Processed World, highlighting how new information technologies were making corporations more powerful than ever without improving the lives of workers.

“What do we actually do all day and why? That’s the most basic question that you’d think we’d be talking about all the time,” Carlsson told us. “We live in an incredibly powerful and overarching propaganda society that tells you to get your joy from work.”

But Carlsson isn’t buying it, noting that huge swaths of the economy are based on exploiting people or the planet, or just creating unproductive economic churn that wastes energy for its own sake. After all, the Gross Domestic Product measures everything, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

“The logic of growth that underlies this society is fundamentally flawed,” Carlsson said. “It’s the logic of the cancer cell — it makes no sense.”

What makes more sense is to be smart about how we’re using our energy, to create an economy that economizes instead of just consuming everything in its path. He said that we should ask, “What work do we need to do and to what end?”

We used to ask such questions in this country. There was a time when working less was the goal of our technological development.

“Throughout the 19th century, and well into the 20th, the reduction of worktime was one of the nation’s most pressing issues,” professor Juliet B. Schor wrote in her seminal 1991 book The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure. “Through the Depression, hours remained a major social preoccupation. Today these debates and conflicts are long forgotten.”

Work hours were steadily reduced as these debates raged, and it was widely assumed that even greater reductions in work hours was all but inevitable. “By today, it was estimated that we could have either a 22-hour week, a six-month workyear, or a standard retirement age of 38,” Schor wrote, citing a 1958 study and testimony to Congress in 1967.

But that didn’t happen. Instead, declining work hours leveled off in the late 1940s even as worker productivity grew rapidly, increasing an average of 3 percent per year 1948-1968. Then, in the 1970s, workers in the US began to work steadily more hours each week while their European counterparts moved in the opposite direction.

“People tend to think the way things are is the way it’s always been,” Carlsson said. “Once upon a time, they thought technology would produce more leisure time, but that didn’t happen.”

Writer David Spencer took on the topic in a widely shared essay published in The Guardian UK in February entitled “Why work more? We should be working less for a better quality of life: Our society tolerates long working hours for some and zero hours for others. This doesn’t make sense.”

He cites practical benefits of working less, from reducing unemployment to increasing the productivity and happiness of workers, and cites a long and varied philosophical history supporting this forgotten goal, including opposing economists John Maynard Keynes and Karl Marx.

Keynes called less work the “ultimate solution” to unemployment and he “also saw merit in using productivity gains to reduce work time and famously looked forward to a time (around 2030) when people would be required to work 15 hours a week. Working less was part of Keynes’s vision of a ‘good society,'” Spencer wrote.

“Marx importantly thought that under communism work in the ‘realm of necessity’ could be fulfilling as it would elicit and harness the creativity of workers. Whatever irksome work remained in realm of necessity could be lessened by the harnessing of technology,” Spencer wrote.

He also cited Bertrand Russell’s acclaimed 1932 essay, “In Praise of Idleness,” in which the famed mathematician reasoned that working a four-hour day would cure many societal ills. “I think that there is far too much work done in the world, that immense harm is caused by the belief that work is virtuous, and that what needs to be preached in modern industrial countries is quite different from what always has been preached,” Russell wrote.

Spencer concluded his article by writing, “Ultimately, the reduction in working time is about creating more opportunities for people to realize their potential in all manner of activities including within the work sphere. Working less, in short, is about allowing us to live more.”

JOBS VS. WORK

Schor’s research has shown how long working hours — and the uneven distribution of those hours among workers — has hampered our economy, hurt our environment, and undermined human happiness.

“We have an increasingly poorly functioning economy and a catastrophic environmental situation,” Schor told us in a phone interview from her office at Boston College, explaining how the increasingly dire climate change scenarios add urgency to talking about how we’re working.

Schor has studied the problem with other researchers, with some of her work forming the basis for Rosnick’s work, including the 2012 paper Schor authored with University of Alabama Professor Kyle Knight entitled “Could working less reduce pressures on the environment?” The short answer is yes.

“As humanity’s overshoot of environmental limits become increasingly manifest and its consequences become clearer, more attention is being paid to the idea of supplanting the pervasive growth paradigm of contemporary societies,” the report says.

The United States seems to be a case study for what’s wrong.

“There’s quite a bit of evidence that countries with high annual work hours have much higher carbon emissions and carbon footprints,” Schor told us, noting that the latter category also takes into account the impacts of the products and services we use. And it isn’t just the energy we expend at work, but how we live our stressed-out personal lives.

“If households have less time due to hours of work, they do things in a more carbon-intensive way,” Schor said, with her research finding those who work long hours often tend to drive cars by themselves more often (after all, carpooling or public transportation take time and planning) and eat more processed foods.

Other countries have found ways of breaking this vicious cycle. A generation ago, Schor said, the Netherlands began a policy of converting many government jobs to 80 percent hours, giving employees an extra day off each week, and encouraging many private sector employers to do the same. The result was happier employees and a stronger economy.

“The Netherlands had tremendous success with their program and they’ve ended up with the highest labor productivity in Europe, and one of the happiest populations,” Schor told us. “Working hours is a triple dividend policy change.”

By that she means that reducing per capita work hours simultaneously lowers the unemployment rate by making more jobs available, helps address global warming and other environmental challenges, and allows people to lead happier lives, with more time for family, leisure, and activities of their choosing.

Ironically, a big reason why it’s been so difficult for the climate change movement to gain traction is that we’re all spending too much time and energy on making a living to have the bandwidth needed to sustain a serious and sustained political uprising.

When I presented this article’s thesis to Bill McKibben, the author and activist whose 350.org movement is desperately trying to prevent carbon concentrations in the atmosphere from passing critical levels, he said, “If people figure out ways to work less at their jobs, I hope they’ll spend some of their time on our too-often neglected work as citizens. In particular, we need a hell of a lot of people willing to devote some time to breaking the power of the fossil fuel industry.”

world

That’s the vicious circle we now find ourselves in. There is so much work to do in addressing huge challenges such as global warming and transitioning to more sustainable economic and energy systems, but we’re working harder than ever just to meet our basic needs — usually in ways that exacerbate these challenges.

“I don’t have time for a job, I have too much work to do,” is the dilemma facing Carlsson and others who seek to devote themselves to making the world a better place for all living things.

To get our heads around the problem, we need to overcome the mistaken belief that all jobs and economic activity are good, a core tenet of Mayor Ed Lee’s economic development policies and his relentless “jobs agenda” boosterism and business tax cuts. Not only has the approach triggered the gentrification and displacement that have roiled the city’s political landscape in the last year, but it relies on a faulty and overly simplistic assumption: All jobs are good for society, regardless of their pay or impact on people and the planet.

Lee’s mantra is just the latest riff on the fabled Protestant work ethic, which US conservatives and neoliberals since the Reagan Era have used to dismantle the US welfare system, pushing the idea that it’s better for a single mother to flip our hamburgers or scrub our floors than to get the assistance she needs to stay home and take care of her own home and children.

“There is a belief that work is the best form of welfare and that those who are able to work ought to work. This particular focus on work has come at the expense of another, far more radical policy goal, that of creating ‘less work,'” Spencer wrote in his Guardian essay. “Yet…the pursuit of less work could provide a better standard of life, including a better quality of work life.”

And it may also help save us from environmental catastrophe.

GLOBAL TIPPING POINT

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the top research body on the issue recognized by the United Nations, recently released its fifth report summarizing and analyzing the science and policies around climate change, striking a more urgent tone than in previous reports.

On April 13 at a climate conference in Berlin, the panel released a new report noting that greenhouse gas emissions are rising faster than ever and urgent action is needed in the next decade to avert a serious crisis.

“We cannot afford to lose another decade,” Ottmar Edenhofer, a German economist and co-chairman of the committee that wrote the report, told The New York Times. “If we lose another decade, it becomes extremely costly to achieve climate stabilization.”

After the panel released an earlier section of the report on March 31, it wrote in a public statement: “The report concludes that responding to climate change involves making choices about risks in a changing world. The nature of the risks of climate change is increasingly clear, though climate change will also continue to produce surprises.”

The known impacts will be displaced populations in poor countries inundated by rising seas, significant changes to life-supporting ecosystems (such as less precipitation in California and other regions, creating possible fresh water shortages), food shortages from loss of agricultural land, and more extreme weather events.

What we don’t yet know, these “surprises,” could be even scarier because this is such uncharted territory. Never before have human activities had such an impact on the natural world and its delicate balances, such as in how energy circulates through the world’s oceans and what it means to disrupt half of the planet’s surface area.

Researchers have warned that we could be approaching a “global tipping point,” in which the impact of climate change affects other systems in the natural world and threatens to spiral out of control toward another mass extinction. And a new report funded partially by the National Science Foundation and NASA’s Goodard Space Center combines the environmental data with growing inequities in the distribution of wealth to warn that modern society as we know it could collapse.

“The fall of the Roman Empire, and the equally (if not more) advanced Han, Mauryan, and Gupta Empires, as well as so many advanced Mesopotamian Empires, are all testimony to the fact that advanced, sophisticated, complex, and creative civilizations can be both fragile and impermanent,” the report warned.

It cites two critical features that have triggered most major societal collapses in past, both of which are increasingly pervasive problems today: “the stretching of resources due to the strain placed on the ecological carrying capacity”; and “the economic stratification of society into Elites [rich] and Masses (or ‘Commoners’),” which makes it more difficult to deal with problems that arise.

Both of these problems would be addressed by doing less overall work, and distributing the work and the rewards for that work more evenly.

SYSTEMIC PROBLEM

Carol Zabin — research director for the Center for Labor Research and Education at UC Berkeley, who has studied the relation between jobs and climate change — has some doubts about the strategy of addressing global warming by reducing economic output and working less.

“Economic activity which uses energy is not immediately correlated with work hours,” she told us, noting that some labor-saving industrial processes use more energy than human-powered alternatives. And she also said that, “some leisure activities could be consumptive activities that are just as bad or worse than work.”

She does concede that there is a direct connection between energy use and climate change, and that most economic activity uses energy. Zabin also said there was a clear and measurable reduction in greenhouse gas emissions during the Great Recession that began with the 2008 economic crash, when economic growth stalled and unemployment was high.

“When we’re in recessions and output and consumption slow, we see a reduction in impact on the climate,” Zabin said, although she added, “They’re correlated, but they’re not causal.”

Other studies have made direct connections between work and energy use, at least when averaged out across the population, studies that Rosnick cited in his study. “Recent work estimated that a 1 percent increase in annual hours per employee is associated with a 1.5 percent increase in carbon footprint,” it said, citing the 2012 Knight study.

Zabin’s main stumbling block was a political one, rooted in the assumption that American-style capitalism, based on conspicuous consumption, would continue more or less as is. “Politically, reducing economic growth is really, really unviable,” she told us, noting how that would hurt the working class.

But again, doesn’t that just assume that the pain of an economic slowdown couldn’t be more broadly shared, with the rich absorbing more of the impact than they have so far? Can’t we move to an economic system that is more sustainable and more equitable?

“It seems a little utopian when we have a problem we need to address by reducing energy use,” Zabin said before finally taking that next logical step: “If we had socialism and central planning, we could shut the whole thing down a notch.”

Instead, we have capitalism, and she said, “we have a climate problem that is probably not going to be solved anyway.”

So we have capitalism and unchecked global warming, or we can have a more sustainable system and socialism. Hmm, which one should we pick? European leaders have already started opting for the latter option, slowing down their economic output, reducing work hours, and substantially lowering the continent’s carbon footprint.

That brings us back to the basic question set forth in the Rosnick study: As productivity increases, should those gains go to increase the wages of workers or to reduce their hours? From the perspective of global warming, the answer is clearly the latter. But that question is complicated in US these days by the bosses, investors, and corporations keeping the productivity gains for themselves.

“It is worth noting that the pursuit of reduced work hours as a policy alternative would be much more difficult in an economy where inequality is high and/or growing. In the United States, for example, just under two-thirds of all income gains from 1973-2007 went to the top 1 percent of households. In that type of economy, the majority of workers would have to take an absolute reduction in their living standards in order to work less. The analysis of this paper assumes that the gains from productivity growth will be more broadly shared in the future, as they have been in the past,” the study concludes.

So it appears we have some work to do, and that starts with making a connection between Earth Day and May Day.

EARTH DAY TO MAY DAY

The Global Climate Convergence (www.globalclimateconvergence.org [2]) grew out of a Jan. 18 conference in Chicago that brought together a variety of progressive, environmental, and social justice groups to work together on combating climate change. They’re planning “10 days to change course,” a burst of political organizing and activism between Earth Day and May Day, highlighting the connection between empowering workers and saving the planet.

“It provides coordinated action and collaboration across fronts of struggle and national borders to harness the transformative power we already possess as a thousand separate movements. These grassroots justice movements are sweeping the globe, rising up against the global assault on our shared economy, ecology, peace and democracy. The accelerating climate disaster, which threatens to unravel civilization as soon as 2050, intensifies all of these struggles and creates new urgency for collaboration and unified action. Earth Day to May Day 2014 (April 22 — May 1) will be the first in a series of expanding annual actions,” the group announced.

San Mateo resident Ragina Johnson, who is coordinating events in the Bay Area, told us May Day, the international workers’ rights holiday, grew out of the struggle for the eight-hour workday in the United States, so it’s appropriate to use the occasion to call for society to slow down and balance the demands of capital with the needs of the people and the planet.

“What we’re seeing now is an enormous opportunity to link up these movements,” she told us. “It has really put us on the forefront of building a new progressive left in this country that takes on these issues.”

In San Francisco, she said the tech industry is a ripe target for activism.

“Technology has many employees working 60 hours a week, and what is the technology going to? It’s going to bottom line profits instead of reducing people’s work hours,” she said.

That’s something the researchers have found as well.

“Right now, the problem is workers aren’t getting any of those productivity gains, it’s all going to capital,” Schor told us. “People don’t see the connection between the maldistribution of hours and high unemployment.”

She said the solution should involve “policies that make it easier to work shorter hours and still meet people’s basic needs, and health insurance reform is one of those.”

Yet even the suggestion that reducing work hours might be a worthy societal goal makes the head of conservatives explode. When the San Francisco Chronicle published an article about how “working a bit less” could help many people qualify for healthcare subsidies under the Affordable Care Act (“Lower 2014 income can net huge health care subsidy,” 10/12/13), the right-wing blogosphere went nuts decrying what one site called the “toxic essence of the welfare state.”

Chronicle columnist Debra Saunders parroted the criticism in her Feb. 7 column. “The CBO had determined that ‘workers will choose to supply less labor — given the new taxes and other incentives they will face and the financial benefits some will receive.’ To many Democrats, apparently, that’s all good,” she wrote of Congressional Budget Office predictions that Obamacare could help reduce hours worked.

Not too many Democratic politicians have embraced the idea of working less, but maybe they should if we’re really going to attack climate change and other environmental challenges. Capitalism has given us great abundance, more than we need and more than we can safely sustain, so let’s talk about slowing things down.

“There’s a huge amount of work going on in society that nobody wants to do and nobody should do,” Carlsson said, imagining a world where economic desperation didn’t dictate the work we do. “Most of us would be free to do what we want to do, and most of us would do useful things.”

And what about those who would choose idleness and sloth? So what? At this point, Mother Earth would happily trade her legions of crazed workaholics for a healthy population of slackers, those content to work and consume less.

Maybe someday we’ll even look back and wonder why we ever considered greed and overwork to be virtues, rather than valuing a more healthy balance between our jobs and our personal lives, our bosses and our families, ourselves and the natural world that sustains us.

With climate change threatening life as we know it, perhaps it’s time to revive the forgotten goal of spending less time on our jobs

IPCC Report: Effects Of Anthropogenic Climate Change Happening Now In Real Time, Threaten Global Food Stocks & Humankind. Worst Yet To Come.

In Uncategorized on April 3, 2014 at 3:49 am

Flooding in Pakistan in 2010, the kind of extreme weather events which the IPCC says is the result of climate change. Photograph: Asif Hassan/AFP/Getty Images

Oldspeak: ““Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change

Rajendra Pachauri, Chairman, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

The report was built on the work of more than 300 scientists drawing from 12,000 scholarly articles to produce the most comprehensive picture of climate risks to date. Pachauri said the report provided all that governments could need for coming up with a strategy for cutting greenhouse gas emissions and protecting populations from climate change. The volume of scientific literature on the effects of climate change has doubled since the last report in 2007, and the findings make an increasingly detailed picture of how climate change – in tandem with existing fault lines such as poverty and inequality – poses a much more direct threat to life and livelihoods…. This was reflected in the language. The summary mentioned the word “risk” more than 230 times, compared to just over 40 mentions seven years ago, according to a count by the Red Cross…The report found the strongest evidence of climate change in the thawing permafrost in the Arctic and in the destruction of coral reefs. It found many freshwater and marine species had shifted their geographical range due to climate change…But the report said climate change was growing more evident in human systems as well, where it posed a series of risks….Climate change was already beginning to affect crop yields, especially for wheat and maize, and the report says that yields could decline sharply towards the middle of the century…The scientists found climate change was a driver of violent conflicts and migration, and was exacerbating inequality, making it harder for people to claw their way out of poverty…Climate change was also a factor in the rise of mega-disasters. The report said climate change was driving recent heatwaves and droughts, and was a risk factor for wildfires….At the forefront of those risks was the potential for humanitarian crisis. The report catalogued some of the disasters that have been visited around the planet since 2000: killer heat waves in Europe, wildfires in Australia, and deadly floods in Pakistan…“We are now in an era where climate change isn’t some kind of future hypothetical,” said the leading author of the report, Chris Field of Stanford University. “We live in an area where impacts from climate change are already widespread and consequential.”

“Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick…. the more time passes, the worse it gets. it’s only going to get worse, there is no viable mitigation strategy, there is no way to avoid the worst effects of anthropogenic global warming. industrial civilization will collapse as a result of its continued and ever-increasing destruction of the ecology… Scientists have been told to prepare for 4 to 6 degree temperature rise.  Multiple irreversible non-linear feedback loops have been triggered and cannot be stopped and climate change is ACCELERATING. Changes will happen faster than lifeforms can adapt. Near term extinction is all but assured.” -OSJ

By Suzanna Goldenberg @ The U.K. Guardian:

A United Nations report raised the threat of climate change to a whole new level on Monday, warning of sweeping consequences to life and livelihood.

The report from the UN’s intergovernmental panel on climate change concluded that climate change was already having effects in real time – melting sea ice and thawing permafrost in the Arctic, killing off coral reefs in the oceans, and leading to heat waves, heavy rains and mega-disasters.

And the worst was yet to come. Climate change posed a threat to global food stocks, and to human security, the blockbuster report said.

“Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change,” said Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the IPCC.

Monday’s report was the most sobering so far from the UN climate panel and, scientists said, the most definitive. The report – a three year joint effort by more than 300 scientists – grew to 2,600 pages and 32 volumes.

The volume of scientific literature on the effects of climate change has doubled since the last report, and the findings make an increasingly detailed picture of how climate change – in tandem with existing fault lines such as poverty and inequality – poses a much more direct threat to life and livelihood.

This was reflected in the language. The summary mentioned the word “risk” more than 230 times, compared to just over 40 mentions seven years ago, according to a count by the Red Cross.

At the forefront of those risks was the potential for humanitarian crisis. The report catalogued some of the disasters that have been visited around the planet since 2000: killer heat waves in Europe, wildfires in Australia, and deadly floods in Pakistan.

“We are now in an era where climate change isn’t some kind of future hypothetical,” said Chris Field, one of the two main authors of the report.

Those extreme weather events would take a disproportionate toll on poor, weak and elderly people. The scientists said governments did not have systems in place to protect those populations. “This would really be a severe challenge for some of the poorest communities and poorest countries in the world,” said Maggie Opondo, a geographer from the University of Nairobi and one of the authors.

The warning signs about climate change and extreme weather events have been accumulating over time. But this report struck out on relatively new ground by drawing a clear line connecting climate change to food scarcity, and conflict.

The report said climate change had already cut into the global food supply. Global crop yields were beginning to decline – especially for wheat – raising doubts as to whether production could keep up with population growth.

“It has now become evident in some parts of the world that the green revolution has reached a plateau,” Pachauri said.

The future looks even more grim. Under some scenarios, climate change could lead to dramatic drops in global wheat production as well as reductions in maize.

“Climate change is acting as a brake. We need yields to grow to meet growing demand, but already climate change is slowing those yields,” said Michael Oppenheimer, a Princeton professor and an author of the report.

Other food sources are also under threat. Fish catches in some areas of the tropics are projected to fall by between 40% and 60%, according to the report.

The report also connected climate change to rising food prices and political instability, for instance the riots in Asia and Africa after food price shocks in 2008.

“The impacts are already evident in many places in the world. It is not something that is [only] going to happen in the future,” said David Lobell, a professor at Stanford University’s centre for food security, who devised the models.

“Almost everywhere you see the warming effects have a negative affect on wheat and there is a similar story for corn as well. These are not yet enormous effects but they show clearly that the trends are big enough to be important,” Lobell said.

The report acknowledged that there were a few isolated areas where a longer growing season had been good for farming. But it played down the idea that there may be advantages to climate change as far as food production is concerned.

Overall, the report said, “Negative impacts of climate change on crop yields have been more common than positive impacts.” Scientists and campaigners pointed to the finding as a defining feature of the report.

The report also warned for the first time that climate change, combined with poverty and economic shocks, could lead to war and drive people to leave their homes.

With the catalogue of risks, the scientists said they hoped to persuade governments and the public that it was past time to cut greenhouse gas emissions and to plan for sea walls and other infrastructure that offer some protection for climate change.

“The one message that comes out of this is the world has to adapt and the world has to mitigate,” said Pachauri.

Tyndall Center Study: Rampant Climate Change Driven Ever-Rising Atmospheric CO2 Levels Pose Serious Threat To World Food Supply

In Uncategorized on March 25, 2014 at 6:53 pm

 

Photo by kevin dooley (CC BY 2.0)

 

Oldspeak:Yields of several major crops are likely to be seriously affected by rising temperatures, scientists say, with spells of extreme heat posing the greatest risk.” – Tim Radford

“1 in 8 people on the planet is suffering from chronic undernourishment. 16 million in developed countries, and 852 million in developing countries, or 52 times more people. The richest fifth of the world’s people consumes 86 percent of all goods. Extreme inequality couldn’t be more clear than that. Knowing that it’s easy to see who will suffer most, as if they weren’t suffering enough now, in the coming anthropocentric global warming caused calamities of water scarcity and famine. We are seeing the beginning stages of it in the American West, and it’s full blown and out of control in places like Uganda, where they’re “….. seeing drought. Serious drought that has not happened before. This drought has caused famine in parts of the country. In other parts, there has been too much rainIt has been very hot these days. Over the years it has gotten hotter with more unpredictable weather.’ -Benon Twineobusingye, Senior Human Resource Manager, Ugandan Government. Again, this is not something far off in the future, it is happening RiGHT NOW. Socio-economic factors are utterly irrelevant to the abrupt impacts of climate change. There’s no where else for us to go.  “Developed” countries will be plunged into the warming induced unpredictability and instability as the “developing” countries are, even The Ministry Of Love said so.  in the description of our “civilization” is the fundamental problem. “Development”. Development has allowed humans to decouple our existence from the well being of Great Mother who has graciously provided her invaluable natural capital to us; only to be reduced to  mere “resources”, “property” and  “externalities”. This dangerously imbalanced world cannot continue to function normally. The fever is mild now, but when it gets higher look out! -OSJ

By Tim Radford @ The Daily Climate:

LONDON – Rampant climate change driven by ever-rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere poses a serious threat to world food supply, according to a new study in Environmental Research Letters.

The hazard comes not from high average temperatures, but the likelihood of heat extremes at times when crops are most sensitive to stress. The message: Those communities that rely on maize as a staple are more at risk than most.

Delphine Derying of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia in the UK and colleagues looked at one of the big puzzles of the coming decades: What will global warming do for crop yields?

Timing is everything

It is not a simple question. Climate change means more evaporation, more precipitation, longer growing seasons, more warmth, and higher levels of the carbon dioxide that plants exploit by photosynthesis (the process they use to convert light into chemical energy), so the consequence ought to be greater yields. But as every farmer knows, what matters most is the timing of all that warmth, rain, and those dry spells in which the harvest can ripen.

There is a second consideration. Climate is the sum of all events. Rather than a steady overall rise in daily temperatures, an increasing number of ever-larger regions are predicted to experience ever more intense extremes of heat, and sometimes cold. Plants can be very sensitive to extremes of heat at flowering time. If the thermometer goes up, the pollen becomes increasingly sterile and less seed is likely to be set. So an extended heat wave in the wrong season could be calamitous.

Business as usual

The Tyndall team included the assumption that nothing would be done about climate change – that is, that governments, industry and people would continue with a business-as-usual scenario. They then chose three well-studied and vital crops – spring wheat, maize and soybean – and tested predictions under 72 different climate change scenarios for the rest of this century.

They allowed for the already-established benign effects of carbon dioxide-driven warming, one of which is that plants can make more tissue and at the same time use water more efficiently, and therefore respond more effectively to drought conditions. They also looked for the outcomes in places where yields could be most vulnerable: For example, the North American corn belt.

What they found was that – if carbon dioxide fertilization effects are not taken into account – then maize, wheat and soya yields are all likely to fall, in all five top-producing countries for each of these crops.

Positive impacts

When they factored in the benefits of more CO2 in the atmosphere, the picture changed. There would be positive impacts on soya and wheat, but not on maize.

There is another proviso: So far, the benefits of extra CO2 have been confirmed in experimental plant laboratories. The experience in the fields 60 years in the future may be rather different. And in any case, these positive impacts could be severely offset by extremes of heat at the moment when the crops were most vulnerable, so overall, harvests remain at risk.

The best answer, the scientists argue, is to attempt to limit climate change. “Climate mitigation policy would help reduce risks of serious negative impacts on maize worldwide and reduce risks of extreme heat stress that threaten global crop production,” Deryng said.

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Tim Radford is an editor at Climate News Network, a journalism news service delivering news and commentary about climate change for free to media outlets worldwide.

The Daily Climate is an independent, foundation-funded news service covering energy, the environment and climate change. Find us on Twitter @TheDailyClimate or email editor Douglas Fischer at dfischer [at] DailyClimate.org

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