Friday, December 21, 2012

My Response to Wayne Lapierre:

My Response to Wayne Lapierre:

Mr. Lapierre:

I will not live in an armed camp so you and gun industry executives can make obscene profits from the blood of our dying children.

I am among many who are fed up with the NRA and the gun industry for supplying militarized weapons to criminally insane murderers. You can no longer hide behind the fiction of the 2nd Amendment.

There is no other truth than the fact that you and your minions make obscene amounts of money through the killing of innocent human beings throughout the world.

Stop it. Stop it now. We will no longer tolerate your corporate dominance of the government of the United States.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Drawing the Line on Gun Control


It’s pretty clear we’re at a watershed in our national debate about gun ownership. 

The majority of the people in the United States are fed up with seeing their children murdered in public places by deranged individuals using militarized firearms. Arms manufacturers, gun lobbyists and their Congressional lobbyees have discovered an unsuspected capability for silence.

Fundamentalist interpreters of the 2nd Amendment to the United States Constitution are forced to consider the possibility that Constitutionally guaranteed “right to bear arms” may not include the right to own semi-automatic weapons with large capacity magazines. The Constitution doesn’t specify what is meant by “arms,” just as it doesn’t define “a well organized militia.”

In the absence of Constitutional direction, Congress decided long ago that the right to bear arms does not mean the right to bear any sort of weapon manufactured by the global arms industry. Citizens of the United States already may not possess fully automatic weapons, explosives, bazookas, cannons, tanks, battleships, F-16s, nuclear weapons or B-1 bombers to deliver them. 

So the question or whether or not to have gun control is moot. Gun control is already on the books. The only thing left to discuss is the degree of gun control desired by the people. Where do we draw the line? 

As long as there are guns of any sort, deranged people will use guns to kill other people. Where do we find the risk balance in public ownership of guns between guns with legitimate civilian purpose and those that result primarily in public mayhem?

It must be noted that the children of Sandy Hook were murdered by guns that were legally and legitimately purchased on the open market. Would the outcome have been different if the only guns available to the murderer were single action, six shot revolvers and bolt action rifles? Perhaps not. Perhaps to a lesser degree. 

The possibilities must be weighed against the legitimacy of militarized weapons in the hands of the general public. Is there any overarching justification for the general public to possess semi-automatic firearms and extended capacity magazines? Can the desire for personal protection be equally served by less than semi-automatic weapons? 

Is there any reason why we cannot extend already existing gun control legislation to include all militarized weapons? 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Yearning for the Hypsithermal


Yearning for the Hypsithermal

Global warming’s bad they say,
For us and caribou, too.
Every dog shall have its day,
But the climate’s gone to pooh.

Singing: Hey nonny-nonny for the Hypsithermal,
That glorious age of heat,
When Africans swam in their own back yards,
And glaciers began to retreat.

Carbon dioxide is nasty old stuff
That humans leave lying about.
Unless you’re a tree, and breathe it with glee
Making O2 we can’t live without.

Singing: Hey nonny-nonny for the Hypsithermal,
The greatest age of the Holocene.
Life was jolly, trees were tall,
Every color was a shade of green.

It’s coming back, so the alarmists say,
But this time it’s gonna be bad.
Hotter than Hell, drier than sand,
The worst climate we’ve ever had.

Singing: Hey nonny-nonny for the Hypsithermal,
Paradise wouldn’t be so bad.
Warmer than glaciers, softer than ice.
The best climate we ever had.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Happy Birthday, Peter Kropotkin

December 9th is the 170th anniversary of the birth of Peter Kropotkin, who birthed the concept of mutual aid and anarchism.

I suspect modern tonsorial practices have much to do with the state of the world today, that and ties. The constant scraping of face and neck, the tiny hair bits breathed at the barber shop, the toxic chemicals used by the average barber have all contributed to the lowering the average IQ of the American male.

Ties obviously reduce blood flow to the brain. When men turned from the loosely gathered cravat to the modern four-in-hand neck ornament, somewhere around the American (un)Civil war, brain cells began a steady decline. Now we see the results. The loosening of morals, ignorance rampant on the streets and in the halls of power. 

Who needs ties? Let's decorate our necks with the natural feature that inalterably distinguishes the male of our species from the female: a blossoming beard in all its natural variety. Thus we refute militarized conformity, economic servitude and post-industrial ennui. 

Sunday, December 02, 2012

On anarchism, socialism and things environmental

Any discussion of historical anarchism and socialism is interesting in itself, giving us some perspective on how we got here today. However, things are different today than in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War, government bureaucrats and politicians have learned much in the interim about how to mold public opinion, manufacture consent and manipulate election outcomes. The corporate oligarchy has strengthened and expanded it stranglehold on the public franchise.

The fact still remains that anarchism and socialism have no intrinsic environmental advantages over capitalism, totalitarianism and corporate oligarchy. The state capitalism of the late Soviet Union was far more destructive to wild lands than Chicago School free market capitalism exported by the United States, as badly as that turned out. It is not capitalism or socialism that is the problem, it is industrialism.

industrialism - an economic system built on large industries rather than on agriculture or craftsmanship

"Industrialism, whether of the capitalist or socialist coloration, is the basic tyrant of the modern age." Ed Abbey

"Our modern industrial economy takes a mountain covered with trees, lakes, running streams and transforms it into a mountain of junk, garbage, slime pits, and debris." Ed Abbey

Case in point: Here in Santa Cruz, on the Left Coast, the good coast, our City Fathers (and Mothers) have decided we don't have enough water to last through periods of drought. Their proposed solution is to build a $120+ million desalination plant, that requires 4 to 5 million dollars annual maintenance costs, and enormous energy consumption, whether it's used or not. They refuse to listen to the argument that we have outgrown our water supply, and therefore, an equally applicable solution is to stop growing, increase conservation and make do with what we have. Rather than deciding to step back from the edge of the precipice, turn around and walk forward, they've decided to pretend they can walk on air beyond the abyss.

Our task then is to prevent, by whatever means necessary, further degradation of the Earth's natural systems, and find a way to organize human societies such that we do not consume more resources than are naturally replenished, that we do not produce more wastes than can naturally be dispersed, and that allows us to exist within naturally occurring cycles of resource availability. 

"To The States, or any one of them, or any city of The States, Resist much, obey little;
Once unquestioning obedience, once fully enslaved;
Once fully enslaved, no nation, state, city, of this earth, ever afterward resumes its liberty.
" Walt Whitman 

"If America could be, once again, a nation of self-reliant farmers, craftsmen, hunters, ranchers, and artists, then the rich would have little power to dominate others. Neither to serve nor to rule: That was the American dream." Ed Abbey

"Be of good cheer, the military-industrial state will soon collapse. Meanwhile, we must do all in our power to oppose, resist, and subvert its desperate aggrandizements. As a matter of course. As a matter of honor." Ed Abbey

Monday, November 19, 2012

Solar Reality is Climate Reality


It is abundantly clear that recent observations of global average surface temperature increase are the result of complex interactions among a variety of factors influencing natural global climate variation.

The combination of periodic oscillation cycles of solar irradiance, solar magnetic flux, internal heliophysical solar cycles, cosmic ray intensity and solar system precession create regular fluctuations in global climate on all planets in the solar system. The coupled ocean/atmospheric system on Earth further complicates the interactions among these cycles, creating a chaotic complex adaptive system that results in perceived climate variation. (D’Aleo 2011 http://icecap.us/docs/change/OceanMultidecadalCyclesTemps.pdf)

The effect of human produced greenhouse gases on climate variation is minimal, amounting to 0.28% (28/100 of 1 percent) of the total atmospheric “greenhouse effect,” more accurately called radiative forcing. The largest contributor to atmospheric radiative forcing is natural water vapor, at 94.999% of the total greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. (Hieb 2007, http://www.geocraft.com/WVFossils/greenhouse_data.html

Atmospheric concentration of water vapor is a function of atmospheric circulation driven by solar energy. 

"I can only see one element of the climate system capable of generating these fast, global changes, that is, changes in the tropical atmosphere leading to changes in the inventory of the earth's most powerful greenhouse gas-- water vapor." Dr. Wallace Broecker, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, R. A. Daly Lecture, American Geophysical Union, May 1996.

What all this means is that proposed changes in human produced greenhouse gases would result in imperceptible changes in total overall climate variation.

The present world-wide focus on human produced greenhouse gases is a politically and economically motivated propaganda campaign to generate support for World Bank and United Nations “Sustainable Development” programs. The World Bank has produced an internally written document, “Turn Down the Heat,” purportedly, according to the World Bank’s own promotional press release, a “scientific report.”

The world is barreling down a path to heat up by 4 degrees at the end of the century if the global community fails to act on climate change, triggering a cascade of cataclysmic changes that include extreme heat-waves, declining global food stocks and a sea-level rise affecting hundreds of millions of people, according to a new scientific report released today that was commissioned by the World Bank.” (http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/2012/11/18/new-report-examines-risks-of-degree-hotter-world-by-end-of-century)

However, the report was prepared by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, which states as its mission, “PIK addresses crucial scientific questions in the fields of global change, climate impacts and sustainable development,” (http://www.climateanalytics.org/) with help from Climate Analytics, which claims: “Our vision is to devise science-based policy to prevent dangerous climate change, enabling sustainable development.” (http://www.climateanalytics.org/)

Global Warming and climate change alarmism are promoted to the public by a vast interlinked system of global NGOs, “progressive” foundations, public relations firms and web-based advocacy groups. To “follow the money,” go to any web site promoting global warming and click on their “Who We Are,” “Funding” or “Partners” links. You’ll find yourself quickly immersed in a sea of interconnected links, from foundation to foundation to environmental group to NGO, populated by self-identified experts feeding at the global warming funding trough.

Proponents of human caused climate change claim that “climate skeptics” and “deniers” are a large, well-organized group, massively funded by oil companies, who sow seeds of doubt among the consensus of climate scientists who believe in anthropocentric global warming. (http://www.examiner.com/article/deceit-and-corporate-manipulation-of-the-dialogue-on-climate-change-redux)

The truth is exactly the opposite. The well organized and highly funded effort is the economic and political manipulation and misrepresentation of climate science to further global political and economic agendas.

Friday, October 05, 2012

The Irrelevant in the Living Room

  

This week’s "Presidential" debate featured an animal that is seen more frequently clopping clumsily through the halls of the Grand Old Benevolent National Asylum for the Helpless in Washington, DC, The Irrelevant.

The Irrelevant is a four-legged beast, one end elephant, the other end jackass. One end never forgets the past, the other end can never remember the present. Both are stitched together at the hips in a tapestry of lies and misdirection provided by the sponsors of this longest of TeeVee soap operas, the Corporate Oligarchy.

The Irrelevant has lost touch with the people of the United States. You remember them: "Of the people, by the people and for the people?" The Irrelevant has forgotten just who we are, confusing "corporate personhood" with real live, flesh and blood constituents, who live, breathe, work for a living, and raise their children amongst the crumbling remains of the American Empire.

The Great American Dream, if it was ever real, is faded and torn like a flag left too long in the sun and weather. The promise of consumerism has proven to be The Great American Lie, as the people are beginning to realize that all consumerism does is fill your two-car garage full of junk so you can't get your shiny new SUV in out of the weather. As the Government turns outward to defend The Empire, the people are turning inward, to family, neighborhood and community, finding satisfactions at home that have long gone missing on the national front. As gasoline prices hit $4.75 a gallon in California this week, the people are beginning to make choices about where to spend their overtime pay, and deciding that the latest frippery at the Big Box store is not quite so attractive after all.

What’s a Global Economy to do when the peasants refuse to play Follow the Leader?

The Irrelevant can’t discuss the realities of Peak Oilresilient communities, natural climate variation, limits to economic growth, finite resources and excessive population growth. To do so would mean whipping the blanket off the midsection of the beast, thus revealing the lie of the “Two-Party” political system and its inherent dominion under the economic thumb of corporate consumerism. So The Irrelevant talks out of both ends at once, each end pretending to be different from the other, but emanating the same stinking flatulence.

In the end, we must acknowledge The Irrelevant in the living room, and admit to ourselves that the course of “Progress,” if that’s what it is, is not a viable path to the future. In a world of finite resources, the mania for continued growth is insanity. We can no longer afford to use precious resources faster than they are naturally replenished, nor can we produce wastes faster then they can be naturally returned to the Earth. This is the sane and perfectly natural process that applies to all species on this planet, including and most importantly to Homo sapiens.

It’s time for a new image to inspire our lives, The Relevant, the creature that Recycles, Reuses, Rebuilds, and Reinhabits the world shared by all in the Web of Life.



Monday, September 10, 2012

Comeuppance Time



When I contemplate the gross ignorance, unceasing apathy and general yokel stupidity that characterizes our modern culture, I am thankful for climate change culminating in the next ice age, Peak Oil, famine, disease and die-off that wait patiently around the corner.  

It’s time for Homo sapiens to take its rightful place in the biosphere, one among many species on equal terms with all the rest. The Great Return cannot begin too soon nor progress too swiftly.

All other species earn their keep in this web of life. Only Homo sapiens sits up at night to admire itself, demands special dispensation for its profligate ways, invents mythical gods and goddesses to forgive its sins against the rest of Life, and acts as if it is the only species on this Earth.

Comeuppance time is at hand. Nature suffers fools poorly. There's no free lunch, no excuses, no hall passes to go to the bathroom. 


Those that can will simplify, accommodate, learn to live within the Earth's means.

Those that can't, won't.

It's hard and it's fair.


Friday, September 07, 2012

Why Climate Change is not a Problem


Climate change is popularly touted as one of the greatest problems humans have encountered since we emerged from the last ice age. A great deal of political capital is expended in attempts to explain how we can solve the problem of climate change so we can continue our civilization as we have gotten used to it over the past 300 years or so.

The foremost social agency involved in this process is the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a UN sponsored subcommittee of  the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP). The purpose of the IPCC is to provide policy advice to world leaders on how to deal with Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW), that is, human caused Global Warming. The position of the IPCC is that climate change is a human caused “problem,” and therefore, it has a human generated solution. In other words, we caused climate change, therefore we can stop it. World governments, political and environmental organizations, scientists and science organizations have been pummeled into line with the climate change hockey stick, in order to produce a “consensus” conclusion that the climate change “problem” can be solved, given enough money and resources.

John Michael Greer, in his book, The Long Descent, makes the distinction between a “problem” and a “predicament.” Problems, by definition, have solutions. Predicaments do not. 

Pollution is a problem. Humans create air and water pollution. Humans can stop producing air and water pollution. No problem.

Drought is a predicament. There is nothing humans can do about drought, except learn how to accommodate to it. Drought is beyond human solution.

As it turns out, global climate variation is a predicament, not a problem. The Earth’s climate has varied naturally as long as there has been a coupled ocean/atmosphere on this planet. Climate has responded to terrestrial, solar and cosmic influences for hundreds of millions of years, long before humans came on the scene and started creating problems for themselves and all the neighbors.

Do humans influence climate variation? Certainly. Humans change landscapes, particularly forest cover, that influence local and regional climate. However, non-human influences on climate, the long scale cycles of solar and cosmic activity, affect the entire planet in a magnitude that far overwhelms these small and temporary human effects.

Why then do organizations such as the IPCC and the National Academy of Sciences, prominent political figures such as Al Gore, and assorted bloggers, media pundits and self-identified climate alarmists honk on interminably about the perils of global warming, irreversible climate change, the disappearance of Arctic sea ice, forest fires, unending drought, floods, famine and plagues of insects?

The simple answer is that if climate change were a normal phenomenon, not caused by human action, then it would be a predicament and not a problem. There would be no solution. There would be no excuse to extort money from developed countries to pay for “sustainable” development in as yet less developed countries. No excuse to donate money to large international environmental groups to “save the polar bears.” No reason to support political campaigns or politicians offering cap and trade schemes to buck up big business. No basis for extravagant government grants to fund climate change research that supports the AGW hypothesis.

In other words, if climate change were a predicament rather than a problem, the whole global warming industry would come tumbling down around the ears of the climate change community. There would be no recourse other than learning how to accommodate to natural climate variation.

Therein lies the rub. 

When we come to an understanding of climate variation as a normal feature of the planet we call home, we are cast, stark naked and trembling, against the very obvious conclusion that the course of human civilization runs counter to the natural processes that make life possible. 

We live on a tiny, trembling planet, with a thin atmosphere between us and the empty immensity of space and time. All that we know, all the history of our species, lies within the tremulous vapors of our atmosphere. We suddenly realize this is a finite world, containing the only sources of energy, food and shelter available to us. We are suddenly exposed to the concept of limits, boundaries and natural cycles, predicaments over which we have no control, cannot get around and for which we cannot provide solutions.

There is no way out. No one, religious, terrestrial or cosmic, is going to appear in a burst of celestial trumpets with the magic silver bullet that will release us from the constraints of the planet on which we evolved.

This is it. This is all there is, and there’s nothing we can do about it.

It’s think or thwim. 

We have two choices: we admit to our feet of clay and get on with the process of reshaping our social arrangements to those that can continue comfortably within our limits, within natural cycles of resource availability, within natural climate fluctuations. We create resilient societies based on change rather than stasis. 

Or we close our eyes to reality, continue on this path as we have for the past three centuries, and sail blithely down the porcelain parkway.

It’s very simple really, and when one gets over the dramatic hand to forehead, deep sigh and resignation stage, it’s very liberating. We can forget about socialism versus capitalism, Democrats versus Republicans, east versus west and north versus south. We‘re all on the same planet, faced with the same challenges and the same inevitable consequences of failure to act.

Let’s just get on with it. No problem!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Why Do We Tolerate Gun Insanity?

Gunman shot dead by police after he kills former co-worker

How many times must we cluck our tongues and turn our eyes away from gun violence before we decide as a society to stop making and selling handguns and implement sensible restrictions on all gun ownership?

When do we stand up to the NRA and the firearms industry lobbyists and say "No more!"

It's time to grow up and put away childish things.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Let's Plan for The Real Transition


Recently I had an exchange with Erik Curren in the Comments section of an article he had written about global warming. Erik is the owner of the Transition Voice web site that serves as a platform for the Transition movement.

Curren’s post was a rambling maundering about “climate deniers,” who, according to Curren, are inordinately successful in “spreading doubt” about climate change, or more accurately anthropogenic global warming.

This brings to mind Ed Abbey’s observation: “Fantastic doctrines (like Christianity or Islam or Marxism) require unanimity of belief. One dissenter casts doubt on the creed of millions. Thus the fear and the hate; thus the torture chamber, the iron stake, the gallows, the labor camp, the psychiatric ward.”

The debate over climate change is polarized on the extremes of “deniers” versus “alarmists.” Oddly, “deniers” are frequently associated with right-wing, fossil-fuel energy corporations, and “alarmists” most frequently associated with “environmentalists” and environmentalism, particularly large Green organizations. One suspects that there is something other than environmentalists vs. corporate developers behind the schism. Perhaps we should “Follow the money” to learn the source of this vociferous debate.

The polarization of the debate obscures understanding of climate science and blocks the effectiveness of environmental activism. More importantly, it draws attention away from the more serious problems caused by human pollution, biodiversity loss and species extinctions, all of which are caused by human growth and development of critical natural habitat.

If we are to plan ahead for natural limitations on human growth that we face in the future, we have to move away from these fruitless arguments to areas where we can come to agreement. Fossil fuel use must be curtailed, even before it becomes too scarce to extract, if for no other reason than fossil fuels are polluting by their very nature, regardless of their carbon content, and their use fosters increasing consumption. Human economic growth and its increasing consumption must stop at some point, because we live in a finite planet that cannot withstand continued and accelerating resource depletion.

Why distract ourselves with possible future climate variation, when these looming problems face us right now and right here in our own homes? 

Rather than political and economic strategies aimed solely at “global warming,” such as cap and trade economic “fixes,” we should come to grips with the very real and immediate challenges of finite fossil fuel availability and finite resources for which there are no renewable alternatives.

Finally, and most importantly, human population growth and increasing resource consumption has exceeded the limits of our planet’s ability to support us. We flat out overshot our natural limits, and we’re living on borrowed time, and squandered resources.

The real transition looming on the horizon is not a simple exchange of nonrenewable for renewable energy technologies. The Earth can no longer support its human population, regardless of its energy technology choices.

The transition that will inevitably arrive is the change from a continuously growing human population to a steady state population considerably smaller than our present 7 billion individuals. The founding concept of modern economics based on production for profit has failed and we must discard it in favor of a steady-state economy based on production for use.



What we need now, rather than an unending debate on the future of global climate variation, is to develop a realistic, rational theory for a steady-state society that lives within natural cycles of resource availability, that does not consume resources faster than they are naturally renewed, and that does not produce waste faster than it is natural dispersed, such that all other species’ viability is not threatened.

We can’t embark on the transition to this new society until we have envisioned the desired outcome. 

Until we know the destination, we cannot plan the route.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Abrupt, Irreversible Tipping Points - Anthropomorphizing Climate Change



Search anywhere on the Internet for stories about Climate Change or Global Warming and you'll find the terms "abrupt," irreversible" and "tipping points." The last phrase is particularly egregious, now attributed to every manner of natural phenomena, as if all natural processes teeter on the brink of disaster.

This turns out not to be the case.

The problem is not so much intellectual dishonesty, scientific ineptitude nor self-serving agendas, though they are all at play as well. The reason the headlines abound in such mind-boggling maloprops is science and policy writers are desperately trying to translate highly technical climate science research into terms that non-scientists can absorb and embrace. 

It is not literally true that climate variation is “abrupt.” Abrupt is a judgment term coined by hasty humans to describe rapid change, to which we Homo sapiens are evolutionarily disposed to notice. “Abrupt” adds a note of immediacy and panic to what otherwise is an unnoticeable phenomenon, the gradual change of climate over centuries.

“Irreversible” adds to the urgency of the coming “abrupt” climate change, implying that once the climate “abruptly” changes in one direction, it will never, ever, cross my heart and hope to die, change back. This, of course, is absurd! Natural processes are never unidirectional, if they even, indeed, ever have a direction. “Irreversible,” “abrupt” climate change connotes something negative, something bad, something that we must avoid at any cost. Odd, this, in that we never think of changes in plate tectonics, vulcanism, gravity, cosmic rays, or the precession of the solar system as having direction, speed or irreversibility. 

These concepts applied to climate change are chosen and utilized purposefully and for specific agendas, seeking very cynically to produce a desired mental state in the minds of the public and policy making institutions.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) seeks to heighten alarm over climate variation in support of its parent organization, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), whose purpose is “To provide leadership and encourage partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.” In other words, Sustainable Development. The purpose of the IPCC is to provide UNEP with policy recommendations to support UNEP’s goal of transferring large sums of money from developed to less developed countries to support Sustainable Development projects, aka economic growth. 

The scientific community lives in a world dominated by the struggle for funding for their parent agencies, be they academic, governmental or non-governmental organizations. When devising and submitting a research proposal, one must identify funding sources for that research, and submit grant applications amenable to those fundings sources’ ideals and purposes. Research funding sources in climate science are dominated by agencies supportive of the IPCC and its goals and therefore most interested in funding research projects supportive of the concept of “abrupt,” “irreversible” “tipping points” in natural climate variability.

The political community lives in a world dominated by corporate funding for political campaigns, so that it is now impossible to separate the views of any political officer or candidate from the source of his or her funding. Catastrophic climate change has become the litmus test of political candidacy. No candidate who questions the scientific orthodoxy of anthropogenic global warming has any chance of being elected to government office, because the money is solidly backing the global warming horse race.

Those who feather their own nests with global warming hyperbole use the tactics of fear, just as in the war on terror, the war on drugs and the war on ecoterrorism. These complex concepts are made simplistic through caricature and emotionalism, ascribing human emotions to physical phenomenon. Thus we hear of “angry” storms, “fierce tornadoes,” and other inappropriate emotions ascribed to weather.

Climate change is always described as negative, open-ended and unidirectional. Any change, either warmer or colder, wetter or drier, stormier or calmer, is considered detrimental to life, regardless of any historical data to the contrary.

This use of propaganda to achieve a political and/or economic end has a long history in human affairs. One would think we would have learned by now that those who wield the stick of fear are not to be trusted.

But then, one would have to think. 

Monday, August 06, 2012

What'll it be? "Man the Lifeboats!" or The Briny Deep?

“Mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly”—Woody Allen.

What’s it going to be, eh?

Passenger Pigeon
It’s obvious that the combined impact of increasing human consumption of (ineptly named) natural resources, multiplied by increasing human population growth results in unacceptable losses in critical natural habitat, biodiversity, living topsoil, quantity and quality of potable water, and increases in species extinction. Ecosystems wounded by human development and destruction are more susceptible to climate variation, putting more stress on species shifting with habitats.


The human reaction is to ask, loudly, while wringing our hands: “What can we do to stop this? What is the solution to overpopulation, resource depletion and (*GASP*) Global Warming?

The answer is: there is no solution. 

There is no solution to natural processes. Natural processes are not a problem that can be solved. There is no solution to a species whose population has overshot its resource base. There is no solution to global climate variation. There is only accommodation to the reality of life on this planet.

If humans were a rational species, we might decide it is in our own best interest, and just by the way, in the interest of all other species, to control our population growth and reduce consumption, stop gobbling up all the non-vertical land in sight, stop polluting the air, land and water, and stop sucking all the nutrients from the living topsoil and flushing it into the ocean. We might decide to live like a good neighbor to the community of life that makes it possible for us to live on this poor abused and battered planet.

But, alas, we’re not a rational species. 




We’ve cut ourselves off from contact with the non-human world and put it in a zoo so we can continue our profligate ways, and still come and visit the cute little plants and animals now and then, for our amusement… and not have to think about them overly much when we’re busy… consuming.

We’ve developed a dominant culture based on consumption to excess, to make even more profits for already rich people, and we sit up nights and complain about it. We’ve developed religions that forbid us from controlling our population to levels sustainable (the real sustainable) within existing, highly variable resource availability. We’ve developed a system of food production dependent on stable and unchanging weather patterns. And, worst of all, we’ve developed political systems controlled by those who profit from all the above.

Rather than taking seriously the prospect of a sinking ship with too few lifeboats to save all the passengers, we continue to politely listen to the orchestra sawing away at a funeral dirge on the poop deck, as we munch on canap├ęs and sip a fine vintage champagne.

It’s too late to build more lifeboats. It’s too late to restrict the passenger list. It’s too late to stock up on caviar and champagne. The ship has already hit the ice and the forward compartments are rapidly filling with icy water.

Gravity and hydrodynamics are taking over the cruise and the ship of human civilization is on its way to its ultimate briny grave.

Don’t be alarmed. It’s only a temporary detour. There are, after all, some lifeboats, and some will survive. There are still crackers and cheese and an inferior domestic wine waiting beyond yon horizon. Certainly enough for the few who have had the forethought to don warm clothing and life vests before coming on deck.

The ship will go down, as it must, as ordained by the sacred laws of Nature. And, Life Will Go On after the Grand Adjustment, as it has for hundreds of millions of years.

There’s still time to tighten our life vests, pass out the survival rations, swing out the davits and climb aboard the rafts. It just might be an adventure, a lesson in species survival to newcomers on the evolutionary scene. Who knows, we might learn something valuable that will last us for a millennium or two.

Mother Nature is hard and she’s fair. 


Saturday, August 04, 2012

Reducing the Titanic Passenger List


Population growth and per capita resource consumption are the twin swords of human impact on the natural world.

At 7 billion and counting, Homo sapiens has drastically overshot the carrying capacity of the Earth, even in areas where per capita resource consumption is low. There is no place on Earth that has not felt the destructive impact of human activity. Where humans live in poverty, the land is stripped bare for fuel and food. Where humans live in profligate excess, the map of destruction extends world-wide, feeding never-ending demands for more and more of more and more.

Ironically, population is the one factor that humans can most easily control. If there is one common thread that anthropologists have discovered in human societies throughout the world, it is that family size and reproduction rates are a function of local economy, social position of women and availability of food. When social conditions create a stable environment for families, increased social status and autonomy for women and access to sufficient food and energy, birth rates decline, since large families are not seen as necessary for survival.

However, even in developed countries, social conditions can increase birth rates, despite better conditions for women, where economic incentives exist for large families, where religions discourage effective birth control and family planning, and where social values favor families over non-breeders. Developed countries also have the highest rates of resource consumption, providing double edges for the twin swords of human destruction.



To further enhance population growth, the medical intervention industry has fostered the attitude that all humans born must live to maturity, regardless of congenital medical conditions complicating their lives and the society in which they live. 




Those who in the recent past would have died in infancy, childhood or early adulthood now live to become reproducing adults, thus passing on their genetic diseases to future generations, and increasing population by lowering death rates.

The result is that we have allowed human population to outstrip resource supplies necessary for all life on the planet, and we have further magnified the problem with a corporate capitalist economy that produces material goods for profit at a rate far greater than that required for human use. We have created human societies that consume resources hundreds of times faster than they are naturally replenished, and we produce wastes hundreds of times faster than natural processes can assimilate them. 



It doesn’t take an Einstein to figure out that this is a formula for environmental disaster, coming soon to an ecosystem near each and every one of us.


Coming Next: Consuming ourselves to death.



Wednesday, August 01, 2012

The Titanic is sinking and there are no lifeboats.




On April 15, 1912, RMS Titanic, the largest ocean liner ever built, struck an iceberg and sank in frigid Atlantic waters, killing 68% of the passengers and crew aboard. The shock of this failure of technology put a lasting pall on an era of untrammeled human industrial growth and development. 




Today, we face a similar nick point in human history. This time the ship is the Earth and its inevitable sinking puts the lives of billions of its passengers and crew at risk. Our Earth ship has hit the iceberg of ultimate limits to human growth and consumption of the Earth’s finite resources.


The impact of Homo sapiens on this planet is a function of two main variables, Population growth and consumption of natural resources. Human impact on the Earth is a function of the per capita rate of resource consumption multiplied by the total human population. At present, both numbers are increasing geometrically.


Population Growth
Human population, at this moment, is 7,086,000,000 and increasing at the rate of 78,840,000 per year, slightly more than an average of 1% per year. Some countries have a population growth rate more than twice the global average.


Consumption of Natural Resources
According to the United Nations Environment Programme, human beings devour an estimated 45 billion tons of minerals, ores, fossil fuels and biomass per year, an average of 6.5 tons per person per year. Highly industrialized countries such as the United States, Japan and more recently, China, consume resources at up to 40 tons per capita. Increases in consumption also produce rapid increases in pollution in the form of waste products introduced into the biosphere, many of which are new to the evolution of life on this planet.


Habitat Loss
The rapid increase in human population and consumption results in an expanding rate of natural habitat loss, as more and more habitat is converted to human infrastructure for cities, transportation and agriculture. Modern corporate agriculture results in topsoil loss at the rate of up to forty times faster than topsoil formation. What little soil is left is depauperate of natural soil organisms and minerals necessary for healthy plant growth and for the health of herbivores and their prey species.


Species Extinctions
As a result of the above, the rate of species extinctions has increased from 100 to 1,000 times the normal background extinction rate. E.O. Wilson estimates that, at present rates, within 100 years as much as half of all species on Earth will have gone extinct.


Biodiversity loss
The combination of habitat loss and species extinction is drastically reducing overall biodiversity on the Earth. In some ecosystems biodiversity is reduced to such an extent as to threaten ecosystem collapse. The complex web of life is much more than the sum of its component species. Disruption of a single species can have cascading affects on all other species.


Climate Change
Whether or not caused by human action, climate variation is natural, real and happening all the time. Human actions introduce new variables into the complex patterns of climate change, adding new feedback systems with both positive and negatives influences. In a world wounded by pollution, habitat loss, species extinctions and biodiversity loss, climate change adds more stresses to already overburdened ecosystems.


Peak Oil
Finally, and perhaps, most importantly, fossil fuels are finite resources that are rapidly approaching the end of their economic utility in human societies, known as Peak Oil. Reduction in fossil fuel use will ultimately reduce emissions and resource depletion fueled by fossil energy sources. However, human civilization is based on fossil fuel energy sources, which cannot be entirely replaced by renewable energy sources. As Peak Oil becomes more evident, human economic system will be faced with extreme changes in conduct and outcome.


What can be done to "solve" these approaching crises?
There is only one set of actions that can have any meaningful and timely influence on the inevitable collapse posed by the natural challenges outlined above. 1) Significantly reduce human population, and 2) significantly reduce per capita consumption.


It's a simple zero sum game. The total impact of human growth and development is a function of total human population multiplied by per capita consumption. The only way to reduce that impact to less than what it is today (to compensate for ecosystem effects already in the "pipeline" that will continue after we stop producing them) is to reduce population and consumption to the point where humans consume less resources than are replenished naturally and produce less waste than can be dispersed and recycled naturally.


Reduction of human growth (economic as well as physical) will reduce the driving force creating so much environmental destruction. Reduction in human consumption will relieve the pressure on all aspects of the biosphere, including the human world.


We must come to the realization that the ship of human civilization is sinking and decide the only recourse is to build life rafts and abandon ship. Otherwise more that 68% of the passengers and crew will be lost.




In a following post, I will analyze the ways we profligate humans may go about achieving the goals of decreasing population and consumption... or not.