The Empire Express, 2 June 2017

Ongoing Assault

Recent news
A relation of love with the land – Manu Sharma, Ecologise, 20170530
When humans love the earth they live upon, when they truly see each part of the ecosystem as equal and valuable, when they build a non-violent relationship with it, something magical occurs […] Balance is restored in a matter of years.”
One week’s headlines on abrupt climate change – Robin Westenra, Seemorerocks, 20170526
One fine analyst you should have heard of if you are concerned about global warming is Robin Westenra. Many of the articles I have been wading through on collecting interesting material for the Empire Express are gathered in one of his latest essays, a digest of news on research on, and results of, abrupt climate change. Though it shows just one one-week’s segment of a really huge pie, the headlines illustrate the rapid decline of the situation, an unraveling which goes on week after week after week at increasing speed.
The empty brain – Robert Epstein, Aeon, 20170518
A very interesting piece on the history of the cognitive sciences and the myth of the brain/computer analogy.
The willingness to face traumas — be they large, small, primitive or fresh — is the key to healing from them. They may never disappear in the way we think they should, but maybe they don’t need to. Trauma is an ineradicable aspect of life. We are human as a result of it, not in spite of it.”
The extent to which the planet gets turned into trash and poison is truly staggering.
“We need to drastically rethink our relationship with plastic,” [Jennifer Lavers, a research scientist at the University of Tasmania] said. “It’s something that’s designed to last forever, but is often only used for a few fleeting moments and then tossed away.”
The globalization of misery: Mosul on my mind – by Tom Engelhardt, Information Clearing House, 20170515
“The globalization of misery doesn’t have the cachet of the globalization of plenty. It doesn’t make for the same uplifting reading, nor does skyrocketing global economic inequality seem quite as thrilling as a leveling playing field (unless, of course, you happen to be a billionaire). And thanks significantly to the military efforts of the last superpower standing, the disintegration of significant regions of the planet doesn’t quite add up to what the globalists had in mind for the twenty-first century. Failed states, spreading terror movements, all too many Mosuls, and the conditions for so much more of the same weren’t what globalization was supposed to be all about.”
I’m not so sure about intentions. After all, it is the difference in wealth that keeps the shareholders happy.
How do you degrow an economy, without causing chaos? – Jonathan Rutherford, Resilience, 20170515
Well, how do you? I guess we never had a nation willingly walking away from progress, and doing so without leaving plenty of shards. Our timeframe is pretty short, and we are living in a system that is based on growth, so you can’t just slowly adapt to no-growth or negative-growth conditions. Grassroots movements may have to play a role here; if they gained traction, the state might hook up by nationalizing corporations, Rutherford says. (topic relates to the Ted Trainer interview; see below)
Prepping for the end of the world – Mike Sliwa, The Good Men Project, 20170514
Maybe dying has a lesson that outweighs the frantic struggle to survive?“
Recent studies have shown that there’s a direct correlation between climate change and CKDu [chronic kidney disease of unknown origins]. The disease affects farm workers across the globe […these]are the very people who provide the basis of our economies and lifestyles. Climate change will impact our entire economic system and CKDu is potentially a canary in the coal mine, a warning of what is to come.“
There is a large contingent within the biosphere that would love to see ants take over after humans step down,” said Eldridge, who cited the insects’ tireless work ethic, longer tenure on the planet, and ability to work well in groups.“
Hilarious!
Where have all the insects gone? – Gretchen Vogel, Science, 20170510
Observations in the wild in Germany show that insect populations have dropped by 78% in 24 years. That’s worse than the decline in vertebrates.
People acquainted to me know that I have a pretty simple, radically downgraded lifestyle. I go to bed shortly after the sun sets; I get up at dawn. My place is more or less a roofed platform with grills for walls, so it’s very open to its environment. Most of the wake times in bed I just listen to the birds, crickets and frogs, and though their numbers have audibly fallen we still have a huge biodiversity existing in our farm. I enjoy being with those fellow creatures every day. After all, “you only get so many Mays in your life”,says ornithologist Tony Whitehead who invites people for forest walks at dawn. I know what Tony is talking about, and he’s right. How many of those Mays do we actually remember? I confess, I have difficulties recalling even one. Springtime memories, yes. But how old was I back then? And, was it May, or April? It’s really better not to reduce one’s nature time to Sundays or, worse, to postpone it till after pension, but to be out constantly, consciously.
“Only now, once you’re outside and engaging with this stuff, is the basis for a meaningful engagement and then a meaningful advocacy for the natural world can come about. You have to get out here”.
Especially recommended article.
US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley explained, “[W]e can’t honestly say that we can protect our people by allowing the bad actors to have them, and those of us that are good, trying to keep peace and safety not to have them.” North Korean president Kim Jong-un could have said the same thing about his seven nuclear warheads, especially in view of US bombs and missiles currently falling on seven countries.”
Commercial opportunities are vastly outweighed by damage to the climate,”the unknown author subtitles his or her considerate article. Several problems standing in the way of an Arctic gold rush are described. “Nothing, however, looms larger than the potential for environmental calamity.” Given that countries were unlikely to keep within the limits of the Paris Agreement, more radical measures – various ways of geo-engineering — needed to be taken. But,
Even if such ways to cool the planet could be managed on the vast scale necessary, other unwelcome outcomes cannot be discounted. When volcanoes release vast amounts of aerosols and sulphates into the air, they damage the ozone layer—might the same be true for geoengineering?”
Overall it seems that the time has come for climate change to hit the mainstream press, which is quite surprising, but truly astonishing for a magazine like this is the article’s summary:
To ensure political and commercial stability in a defrosting Arctic, and to limit the harm caused by and to the warming pole, countries need to pay it far greater attention. The danger is that it is already too late.”
With all the natural sinks exhaling their carbon quickly, the (non-existent) efforts of mankind to curb emissions have exactly no consequences for the outcome.
This high-level waste must be isolated from the environment for one million years – but no container lasts longer than 100 years. The isotopes will inevitably leak, contaminating the food chain, inducing epidemics of cancer, leukemia, congenital deformities and genetic diseases for the rest of time. This, then, is the legacy we leave to future generations so that we can turn on our lights.”

…provided there are future generations.

Pearls Before Swine

A collection of older articles that – obviously – didn’t change the world.
Towards a unitive life: An interview with Shyam BalakrishnanS. Sharath & Jayan P.M., Ecologise, 20151105 [as featured in Keraleeyam Magazine; translated from the Malayalam by the interviewee]
The interviewee became famous in India after he has been falsely accused of being a Maoist and has been harassed and arrested without warrant by the police. Kerala High Court acquited him, ordering the state to compensate him, because “being a Maoist is not a crime”. Balakrishnan does have radical thoughts, though. He talks of the irreconcilable relation between democracy, nation-state, and capitalism, advocating the fostering of a non-dual, unitive existence which respects life.
The essential truth about us is our oneness… Those living in the delusion of a private life are missing the greatest beauty that nature holds.”
Since the nation-states contradict the natural and basic principles of life, they must fall. The sense of otherness and territory are the prime capital of nationhood. We must fully accept that every community has its own culture and unique characteristics but this doesn’t make it necessary to have a territory guarded by armed human beings.”
we have to integrate all the values ranging from food to freedom scientifically and we must live that through infinite diversities.”
Ted Trainer Interview on ‘The Simpler Way’– Jordan Osmond & Samuel Alexander, The Simplicity Institute, 201511
The current crisis can be taken as an opportunity to shift to a simple lifestyle. The Australian academic explains why there is no way capitalism could be reformed, and why there is no need for fear of an impoverished existence. There are indeed ‘benefits’ from ending consumerism…
What it would really take to reverse climate change – Ross Koningstein & David Fork, IEEE Spectrum, 20141118
Two engineers at Google report on their failed attempts at tackling the climate issue by providing cheap renewable energy.
Those calculations cast our work at Google’s RE<C program in a sobering new light. Suppose for a moment that it had achieved the most extraordinary success possible, and that we had found cheap renewable energy technologies that could gradually replace all the world’s coal plants—a situation roughly equivalent to the energy innovation study’s best-case scenario. Even if that dream had come to pass, it still wouldn’t have solved climate change.”
So even if we listened to our best experts, started right now, and put all our energy into it – we are still running against a wall, one of them being the financial bottom line against which they fought an uphill struggle.
There are, no doubt, all manner of unpredictable inventions that are possible, and many ways to bring our CO2 levels down to Hansen’s safety threshold if imagination, science, and engineering run wild.”
One may dream, of course, but when our lives depend on it we’d better come up with something more solid, no?
We’re hopeful, because sometimes engineers and scientists do achieve the impossible.”
Hopium, Hopium. Some day I might win the lottery, but from my experience, it is rather like, sometimes you lose, and sometimes somebody else is winning.
We can’t yet imagine which of these technologies will ultimately work and usher in a new era of prosperity—but the people of this prosperous future won’t be able to imagine how we lived without them.”
There! The golden age, lingering just around the corner. Let’s face it: money is one of the major problems in the game, and most people rather believe in fantasy tech than to imagine a world without currency. What it would really take to reverse climate change is for industrial civilization to cease existing, and for mankind to survive and wait a few million years until the planet finds a more human-friendly mode of operation again.
Why Capitalism makes us sick – Dr Gabor Maté, 20140928
From the perspective of a physician who specializes in the study and treatment of addiction and is also widely recognized for his perspective on Attention Deficit Disorder, Dr Maté explains the connection between psychological and physical sicknesses, and inhowfar those are being caused by the way we organize work and society. No surprise there, but this is a well presented analysis. See also his interview “Attachment, Disease, Addiction“.

Cartoon

The train of civilization
“Dear Passengers! Travelling at our current high speed, we are going to get term… uhm, I mean, arrive at terminal before twenty-one hundred, faster than expected.”

Famous Last Words

“What do you mean, crash?”

The Empire Express, 12 May 2017

Editorial

 

A lot of the material presented here may seem unpleasant to the unprepared eye. If you think so, there are two points to keep in mind.
First of all, that something looks unpleasant doesn’t mean we should look the other way. It is just one facet of things as they are. Yet those are some facets mainsteam media chooses to avoid or to make them appear less serious than they are. To achieve a more accurate picture of the world at large, though, these aspects need to come to one’s awareness. Those who prefer to consume standard news from abundant corporate or government sources – be free to switch programs.
Secondly, you may ask yourself why I chose to focus on those unpleasant aspects of reality. The answer is, that I prefer truth over propaganda, and that, by having a more accurate picture of the situation, I may respond more aptly. When we view information as merely ‘interesting’, ‘entertaining’, or ‘thrilling’, it becomes meaningless. Every event carries a lesson. It has something to tell about how well our actions are aligned with what-is. When our path is littered with suffering, conflict, catastrophe, and other unpleasant debris, it suggests that something doesn’t work in the way we see and handle things. This has collective aspects to it, but also carries lessons for the individual. When it seems like we are just little cogs in a giant machine who cannot change much, that is true, regarding the machine, yes; at the same time it is not true regarding the impact we can have on the origins of suffering, both materially and spiritually.
Those links which lead to the less unpleasant stories may help with understanding how that works.

Ongoing Assault

Recent news
Towards an ethics of permanenceNyla Coelho & Dr. M.G. Jackson, Ecologise, 20170510
The authors are “calling for a fundamental transformation of our perceptions of reality, and a befitting code of conduct to govern our relations with one another and with every other entity on earth.”
As we are today, we should consider ourselves to be ill; in dire need of healing. Our illness has been brought about by our many failures to act in accordance with the ethical imperatives of the core pattern of relationships underlying manifest phenomena. These failures are due to ignorance or inadvertence. Healing can occur if we endeavour to be mindful of the imperatives of the active causal agency that shapes and governs all beings and their activities, and act in accordance with it. This applies to our personal emotional and physical health, as well as to that of our families, our communities, our nations and the larger global community of which all these are parts. The cumulative effect of all our individual illnesses is an ailing planet.”
[The article is a collection of excerpts from the book Tending Our Land: A New Story, Earthcare books, Kolkata, 2016]

Science presents to us another positive feedback loop that drives global warming without human intervention:
Measurements of carbon dioxide levels taken from aircraft, satellites and on the ground show that the amount of CO2 emitted from Alaska’s frigid northern tundra increased by 70% between 1975 and 2015, in the period between October and December each year. […]

Whereas soils 40 years ago took about a month to completely freeze over, the process can now take three months or longer. In some places in the state, the soil is not freezing until January, particularly if there is a layer of insulating snow. The result is a huge and continuing expulsion of CO2 [not to talk of methane].

A lot of models were predicting this thawing would happen, but not for another 50 to 100 years.”

Big polluters are headed for Germany for UN climate talks – Nathalie Baptiste, Mother Jones, 20170504
How the latest United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) comes into existence. It’s ok to feel a little bit disgusted.
Stark warning on health of oceans – Tim Radford, Climate News Network, 20170504
As the oceans heat up they take in more carbon dioxide, which means they become more acidic and less oxygenized – a threat to the marine food chain.
Crop failures in USA as a result of extreme weather events – Robin Westenra, Seemorerocks, 20170503
No one seems to be alarmed by the heat wave in India, not even the government of India. No one seems to be alarmed by the famines in Africa, except for the Africans. No one seems to be alarmed by crop failures in the US, except for the stock markets. It’s all just freakish events… yes?
The science of this article is based on the flawed IPCC/Paris figures (see my essay, 2°C to Midnight), but the message it carries is absolutely correct: “It’s a species-level emergency, but almost no one is actinglike it is.” And,“If we mean what we say, no more new fossil fuels, anywhere.”
Though that won’t be enough, as the already-developed resources carry us to 2,2°C (IPCC), or rather 6.5°C (Wasdell). Seriously.
The crazy scale of human carbon emission – Caleb A. Scharf, Scientific American, 20170426
Want some perspective on how much carbon dioxide human activity produces? Here it is.”
Careful, it’s getting graphic 😉
We can save life on Earth: study reveals how to stop mass extinction – Morgan Erickson-Davis, Truthout, 20170426
The deal is, to conserve around 50% of the planet’s land areas for proper functioning ecosystems – currently there are 15% under protection. ”Increasing protections and restoring degraded land would cost somewhere between $8 billion and $80 billion per year”, which is a joke compared to what is being spent on war. But then again, it is this greedy mindset of ours which drives us into war time and again that will keep us from doing it.
The deal reminds me a bit of historical divisions, say in Korea, where the opponents fear defeat and hastily agree to an armistice before it’s too late. Only that, this time, it might actually be so. It doesn’t ever work out, anyway. Look at Ethiopia/Eretria, or Israel/Palestine, or India/Pakistan, or Germany, or…
We will insist on fully transforming “our” part into the Anthroposphere, and we will have wars against the other part, for all the stupid reasons we have wars among human nations. First and foremost the capitalistic juggernaut is not going to stop the plundering of the world before it has felled and monetized the last tree on Earth. Meanwhile, experts are going to discuss which areas are worth protecting, or how this is going to effect the economy.
I don’t believe we see more than an ultra-shortterm result from such an endeavor. Humanity and nature are one. The insistence on a separation that has no reality anywhere else but in the mind can only lead to further crippling of both parts. Let’s overcome separation!
The upshot of the judges’ opinion? Monsanto has engaged in practices that have violated the basic human right to a healthy environment, the right to food, the right to health, and the right of scientists to freely conduct indispensable research.
The judges also called on international lawmakers to hold corporations like Monsanto accountable, to place human rights above the rights of corporations, and to ‘clearly assert the protection of the environment and establish the crime of ecocide’.”
A conversation with Helena Norberg-Hodge – Charles Eisenstein, A new and ancient story, 20170417
The author of ‘Sacred Economics‘ and the author of ‘Distant Futures: Learning from Ladakh’ have a dialogue on the reductionist assumptions regarding climate change and how to “attack” it, on localization as a means of healing wounds of all kinds, and how huddling together in ever larger numbers is a main driver to the convergence of crises this civilization faces today. They talk about cities, their functioning and the ramifications of their growth. What impresses me time and again about Charles is his ability to connect dots from very different areas in order to show the larger picture.
In the present day, the biomass of the entire human race is approximately equal to 300 million tonnes. This is more than double that of all large terrestrial vertebrates that lived on Earth prior to human civilization, and an entire order of magnitude greater than that of all vertebrates currently living in the wild. At 30.11 trillion tonnes, the size of the technosphere is five orders of magnitude greater than even that. It is the equivalent of every single square metre of Earth’s surface being covered with nearly 50kg of matter.”
According to Aspen, the total Mass of carbon in the whole biosphere is about 1 to 4 trillion tons. The comparison to our own collective weight shows that humanity is literally eating up the living planet as it develops its realm and grows in numbers.
I disagree with every single point made in this video, as far as those points are meant to discredit the ability of self-acclaimed and alleged ‘doomers’ in general and a certain professor emeritus in special. With his kitchen psychoanalysis Paul, who has made himself a name as a climate system scientist and proponent of geo-engineering, falls into the same traps he believes others have become victims of. Rather than refuting point by point, however, may I emphasize that Paul touches on something that is of relevance to every activist: the danger of getting hysterical about the news, of overrating single events, and of identifying with a specific interpretation of the facts. We need to be aware of the larger picture, and we need to check our facts in the light of new information and different opinions. Because we might be wrong. In the end, all predictions of the future are inaccurate projections. So… pass on the popcorn and relax 🙂

Pearls Before Swine

A collection of older articles that – obviously – didn’t change the world.
The only way I can honor Earth Day is to grieve all that has been lost, and to refuse to participate in the ongoing destruction.”
8 widespread but deadly eco-myths – Michael Thomas, Exposing the Truth, 20140821
Nice to have all this pointed out in a tidy fashion. People, in their human bubble, too easily forget that money, science, or ingenuity cannot bring back lost lives.
Recommended article, both as an introduction into the madness of our culture, and as a call for resistance. Hedges shows how the story of Captain Ahab, the main character of Moby Dick, is emblematic of what our culture is doing to the planet today. “The novel is the chronicle of the last days of any civilization,”he writes, because “Complex civilizations have a bad habit of ultimately destroying themselves […]
The difference this time is that when we go down the whole planet will go with us. There will, with this final collapse, be no new lands left to exploit, no new civilizations to conquer, no new peoples to subjugate. The long struggle between the human species and the earth will conclude with the remnants of the human species learning a painful lesson about unrestrained greed, hubris and idolatry.”
Ronald Wright once pointed out that our neolithic ancestors, as well, have been facing a fundamental change that required major changes in how people lived. Mankind, after having hunted every large species into extinction, parted into two directions; those who turned into tribal caretakers of the land, and those who continued as farmers and civilization founders; those who got the lesson and those who didn’t. It remains doubtful whether the latter will get it this time around, because “We believe, because we have externalized evil, that we can purify the earth. And we are blind to the evil within us.” Hedges.
On the positive side, he says, “we only need 1 to 5 percent of the population actively working for the overthrow of a system, history has shown, to bring down even the most ruthless totalitarian structures.”
Yet the stakes are high, especially for those bound to the machine who see clearer than others. In the face of a conflict of interest, “moral cowardice turns us into hostages.”
To emotionally accept impending disaster, to attain the gut-level understanding that the power elite will not respond rationally to the devastation of the ecosystem, is as difficult to accept as our own mortality. The most daunting existential struggle of our time is to ingest this awful truth—intellectually and emotionally—and rise up to resist the forces that are destroying us.”
AMEN!
Human extinction without a squeak? – Michael Thomas, Exposing the Truth, 20130407
The question why “no one” is taking the impending collapse of global ecosystems serious is being asked again and again. This article provides an answer from an emergency helper’s point of view.
The paper discusses the techniques of how alternate ways of acquiring knowledge are systematically getting eradicated through scientific discourse. See also my previous article, Cognitive Justice: Science and the Sacred.
A short history of progress – Ronald Wright, 2004
Wright argues that civilizations usually end up in a development trap. Technological items that seem beneficial in the beginning become staples before a society slips into addiction. What looks like a stairway to heaven is actually a highway to hell. The author describes the demise of some historical civilizations, analyzing which of their cornerstones gave way and made it collapse. For example,
We might think that in such a limited place [Easter Island], where, from the height of Terevaka, islanders could survey their whole world at a glance, steps would have been taken to halt the cutting, to protect the saplings, to replant. We might think that as trees became scarce, the erection of statues would have been curtailed, and timber reserved for essential purposes such as boatbuilding and roofing. But that is not what happened. The people who felled the last tree could see it was the last, could know with complete certainty that there would never be another. And they felled it anyway.”
There must be reasons why we do not react appropriately. One of them might be that,
We are running 21st-century software on hardware last upgraded 50,000 years ago or more. This may explain quite a lot of what we see in the news.”
Wright also describes the fall of Sumer and Rome, and briefly compares them to the cases of China, Greece, and Egypt. All this does of course have a meaning for our own situation in which we have reached the peak production of our main energy source at a time when environmental breakdown is well underway. When a civilization reaches the limits to growth it needs to acknowledge them or perish. It’s not like there were no precedences like the Maya, whom we can learn from. And what did the Maya do?
As the crisis gathered, the response of the [Maya] rulers was not to seek a new course, to cut back on royal and military expenditures, to put effort into land reclamation …, or to encourage birth control… No, they dug in their heels and carried on doing what they had always done, only more so. Their solution was higher pyramids, more power to the kings, harder work for the masses, more foreign wars … the Maya elite [was]squeezing the last drops of profit from nature and humanity.”
Doesn’t it sound awfully familiar to you? Does it make you feel like you want to smash the pathetic system and start all over again? Beware!
There is no going back without catastrophe. Those who don’t like civilization, and can’t wait for it to fall on its arrogant face, should keep in mind that there is no other way to support humanity in anything like our present numbers or estate.”
And maybe there is no other way left to go but to reduce the numbers and estate. Population and property were the main physical drivers of all civilizations – and their eventual unraveling. I know that our Empire, just like the Maya kings, is not willing to go slower, not to speak of decreasing its size. It should have taken steps four decades ago at latest. The end of the road has been reached. The current generation may experience the expected outcome of our civilization’s project of conquering the world.
The lesson I read in the past is this: that the health of land and water — and of woods, which are the keepers of water — can be the only lasting basis for any civilization’s survival and success.”
[The above link leads to a file containing the introduction to his 200p book.]

The train of civilization

“Are we going to arrive in time?” – “I think so. Emergency services are pretty quick these days.”

Famous Last Words

“Don’t worry. We can fix this.”

2°C to Midnight, or, In Paris We Trust

Just a few months ago, in November 2016, the world celebrated the coming-into-effect of the 2015 Paris Agreement on limiting anthropogenic global warming – only to get disappointed shortly after by the announcement of the POTUS-elect that he intended to cancel the treaty. The leader of one of the planet’s most polluting nations who is at the same time commander-in-chief of the US army, the single biggest polluter worldwide, has already started to dismantle mechanisms of environmental protection both at home and abroad. One could sing a very sad song about that, but I want to talk about something else here. As we will see by the end of this essay, the United States’ adherence or non-adherence to the Paris Agreement might be of marginal significance to the unfolding of climate change, if at all.

The Paris Agreement which has been signed by numerous nations on the 21st UN Climate Change Conference (COP 21) has actually been a breakthrough, somehow, because, for the first time, a majority of the world’s countries, including the US, have committed to far-reaching specific goals for environmental protection, in order to prevent catastrophic climate change. But that victory’s value is only of symbolic nature; it will not achieve what it is supposedly meant to do. Quite the opposite. Various scientists have pointed out that the treaty is simply misleading public opinion. The action to be taken will not only be insufficient, it is coming too late – by decades – and will result in inappropriate handling of this truly existential crisis of our planet. Therefore it is suitable for leading to great damage.

The Paris Agreement is mainly based on data collected, reviewed, evaluated, and presented by the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Its main goals – curbing global warming at 2°C above pre-industrial levels, ideally stopping it at 1.5°C, through national carbon budgets – derive from reports issued by the IPCC. Certainly it’d be unfair to demand infallability of those good folks, but criticism of the IPCC has been getting louder and louder over the years, and point is adding to serious point. Those who believe that the tide is turning, climate-wise, should definitely have a look at what the general public is being served as a major breakthrough. Let’s dive into matters from here on.

Composition
As its name suggests, the IPCC consists of government representatives of the world’s nations. Founded in 1988, its purpose has been to inform decision makers of the state of global climate. The IPCC appoints scientists which are to provide assessment reports. The last word on content and way of publication are with the IPCC, i.e. the governments, not with the scientists. The latest report has been issued in 2013 (AR5).

Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), of 2013
It is the scientist’s duty to come to an assessment of the future development of the global climate system. Their appraisal has to be based on solid data. Well, we all heard about climate change denial, and we would like to have a clear picture of what is going on, rather than having to rely on anybody’s best guesses. There is just one problem with solid data: it is old data. For scientific research to receive wider acknowledgement, the reports have to go through a lengthy process of checks and appraisals by fellow scientists, the so-called peer review. This usually takes two to three years before relevant journals are willing to print the report. Only then does the scientific community regard the data as solid. The assessment by the IPCC takes several years more, e.g. it is currently in its sixth cycle of assessment, the report of which is not to be expected before 2022. So the data grows old and older.

Climate, in the meantime, continues to change, and quickly. The current state of affairs is documented ‘merely’ through unreviewed measurements. Instead of working with those, the IPCC used computer models. There is much to criticise about that.
Models can provide only rough calculations of climatic mechanisms. Small causes below the resolution of the model can amplify into surprisingly huge effects. One example of this is the localised melt of the Greenland ice sheet through darker particles and its large-scale destabilisation through the resulting melt water.
Quite a few fundamental climate factors have been missing from the IPCC’s models, such as the greenhouse gases methane and water vapor, and the multiple effects of melting polar icecaps. Those factors are not merely adding up, they interact with each other. That means, instead of the expected (by IPCC) relatively steady increase we see a sudden escalation in figures, such as with global average temperatures and polar ice melt. Already more than seventy natural feedback processes have been identified which reinforce themselves and each other and drive the heating of the atmosphere without needing further human intervention. The IPCC does not acknowledge any of these feedback loops.
That’s why the IPCC has come to false predictions regarding polar ice melting, atmospheric temperature development and greenhouse gas concentrations, all of which are skyrocketing at unprecedented speed. No wonder – the models were completely inaccurate, as illustrated by the following chart.

measured data (red) as compared to modeled Arctic sea ice extent (blue).
[public domain / source: Wikimedia]

It is easy to see how inaccurate models prevent people from getting aware of the obvious emergency. Instead of an ice-free Arctic starting from somewhen between 2017 and 2025, IPCC predicts this so-called Blue-Ocean Event from 2100 on, when today’s decision makers will no longer be alive. Blue Ocean leads to significantly higher intake of solar radiation energy, resulting in higher water temperatures, and those will probably trigger massive outbursts of methane from the seabed; a sudden leap in atmospheric temperatures will be the consequence – exactly how the ‘Great Dying’ some 250 Million years ago came about, when more than 90% of all life forms went extinct.

Scientists tend to give conservative figures. That’s not new. Valuing the models with their systematic large-scale deviation higher than the real figures is. The intervention of governments in the interest of fossil fuel industries has played a major role in this, some scientists reported. Further window-dressing has been achieved by shifting the baseline. In the 80s, the UN held that a 1°C temperature rise above a pre-industrial baseline (1750) was beyond safe. Today, the IPCC is talking about 2°C as compared to a pre-industrial baseline, meaning 1880 (!) In those intermitting 120 years, global average temperature has risen by at least 0.3°C due to human activity. Recently we see more and more publications that use an even later baseline, thus playing down the level of warming the planet has already reached. Ordinary people watching the news usually won’t become aware of it; they will falsely believe that there is plenty of time for countermeasures while there isn’t.

David Wasdell, director of the Apollo-Gaia Project, previously coordinator of the Meridian Programme, comes to similar results. Years of climate research enabled him to draw a corrected version of the IPCC’s chart depicting the relation between industrial CO2 emissions, CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere, and expected global atmospheric temperature rise.

[source: Wasdell]

The top of the graph translates the weights of carbon into their equivalent amounts of CO2, in parts per million (ppm). This translates into a total amount of human carbon emissions measured in petagrams (PgC), shown on the lower edge.
The vertical axis shows the temperature increase which a certain amount of greenhouse gases may result in. This depends on the models used.
The blue line shows the steady increase the IPCC models project. This does not acknowledge greenhouse gases other than CO2, and it does not account for changes related to the melting of the polar ice caps. It doesn’t acknowledge the dynamics of natural processes.
The curved red line calculated by Wasdell does include some of these factors and is matching paleoclimatic precedence.

Wasdell’s analysis of AR5, in short:
„Avoiding dangerous climate change is no longer possible.“ The IPCC has delivered a systematically false report that does not describe the reality of climate change. Its proposals are misleading and allow for too much time to pass. „On these grounds the AR5 should be rejected as not fit for the purpose of policy-making.“ The specifics are frightening:

  • The temperature response to the 2014 set of emission-reduction pledges is about 10°C, not 4°C . This is where we are most likely headed as many states seem to have a hard time implementing the Paris Agreement.
  • If we actually performed as proposed by the AR5/Paris Agreement, we’d end up at 5.4°C, not 2°C.
  • The atmospheric CO2 concentration in 2014 already leads us to 3.9°C, not 1.5°C. The effect of other greenhouse gases which have been disregarded by IPCC needs to be added. The temperature increase locked in actually amounts to min. 6°C and will probably lead to a sea level rise of 23 meters, following precedents in Earth’s history, according to Guy McPherson. We don’t need to worry about wet feet, though, because a temperature rise by 3.9°C equals the extinction of the human race, following the demise of our crop plants.
  • The so-called CO2 budget of 300 gigatons which could supposedly get emitted before breaking the 2°C limit is wholly illusory. In reality the account was already overdrawn by 388 gigatons, with 10 gigatons of industrial carbon pollution being added every year. There is no budget to distribute. We have missed that exit decades ago, around 1970.

Those who do not shy away from climate technical vocabulary should have a look at Wasdell’s critical evaluation of the AR5.
If, for some reason, you find it wanting, there still remain a few inconvenient facts:
2°C are not a goal based in science. The limit has been set by the neoliberal economist William Nordhaus who tried to define conditions under which economic activity makes sense.
2°C are not a safe goal. This shows clearly from the increasingly numerous, increasingly massive natural disasters over the last few decades. Epic droughts, larger storms, rainbombs, quickly changing weather, extreme heat and cold – and all of these clearly more often today than in the past. It already devastates crops throughout the world, from Spanish lettuce to Californian almonds, from Australian sugar to Indian grains.
2°C are not a realistic goal, even by the assessment of the IPCC. AR5 states that it requires geo-engineering to achieve its 2°C goal (which is really 5.4°C), yet it fails to mention any specific technology that can accomplish this. Such a technology which could manipulate climatic factors in the short-term and on a global scale does not exist yet!

Summary:
The Paris Agreement of 2015 whose goals and policies mirror the fifth assessment report of 2013 of the IPCC exposes the community of life on Earth to dangerous climatic changes, says David Wasdell in his critical evaluation. Others – Sam Carana, Michael Mann, James Hansen, or Paul Beckwith – do call for immediate action. They propose a shift to renewable energy sources and demand geo-engineering of various kinds. In the absence of suitable geo-engineering technologies, and factoring in that the so-called renewables are not carbon-neutral at all, Professor Guy McPherson came to the conclusion that the train of civilization has jumped tracks and is heading for the bottom of the cliff.
Global warming might not be catastrophic, but rather apocalyptic in extent, as human activity has triggered a sixth mass extinction already which may only get worse on this quickly heating planet. It’s literally 2.5°C to Midnight.
I would have liked to end this essay with the words, „If that is so, who cares what America is doing or not doing?“ Yet the one thing America still may – and possibly will – do is to throw the planet into a nuclear winter, either deliberately to stop the warming, or as a byproduct of their pursuit of securing the remaining resources it needs for feeding its war machine.
You may think that all this is far out and that things could be worse than what you see outside your window. And that’s true. Yes they can.

Further links:

The Empire Express, 15 April 2017

Some of the more ‘interesting’ articles regarding systems in collapse, especially climate, global civilization, food & farming, human consciousness and ecology. I recommend them for either their illustrative information on the state of affairs, or their profound insight into what said information might mean.

Ongoing Assault

Recent news
A long catalogue of crimes committed against the ocean makes sure that the near-term collapse of Indian society due to food crises becomes inevitable.
Exiting the Anthropocene – Roger Boyd, Resilience.org, 20170410
Seems like the Anthropocene is over before it really started. The author writes up a realistic description of the factors that will bring the curtain down. Too bad we cannot read such essays on the front pages of our favourite newspapers and magazines, because,While the evidence that the door to the end of the Anthropocene is opening wide mounts, our society seems unable to grasp the scale and urgency of the danger.”
Is this the start of runaway global warming? – William P. Hall, PhD, Kororoit Inst., 2017,0408
“This essay focuses on observations of what appears to be the start of runaway warming in the Arctic that may have profound effects on global climates over the next few years;”
A fine introduction and comprehensive overview on the climate situation and the outlook for the near-term future.
The end of ice – Dahr Jamail in an interview with Jennifer Hynes, Extinction Radio, 20170405
Independent journalist Dahr Jamail talks about the research for his upcoming book on climate change. Both the state of affairs and his personal outlook on the future are discussed.
What’s scarier than the Permian Extinction? – Robert Scribbler, 20170405
Burn all the fossil fuels to find out…”
America’s farmers face uncertain future – Tim Radford, Climate News Network, 20170405
Worldwide, scientists have repeatedly warned that climate change driven by human dependence on fossil fuels presents serious problems for farmers: many crops are vulnerable to extremes of heat, and climate change presents a hazard for harvests in Africa, Asia and Europe.
America in particular could face substantial losses, and, at the most basic level, the grasses – almost all the world’s staple foods are provided by the grass family – may not be able to adapt to rapidly changing climates.”
Not to forget Yemen and Nigeria, along with several countries that are standing at the edge. “Ethiopia has learned from previous droughts and took adequate precautions. Yet the scale of the current drought is too great for Ethiopia, and indeed the entire region, to cope with,” says German development minister Gerd Müller.
Extreme heat threat rises for megacities – Tim Radford, Climate News Network, 20170403
If global warming is contained at 1.5°C – the ideal target identified at the 2015 climate summit in Paris − the researchers say the number of megacities, with populations over 10 million, in the danger zone will double from today’s figure […] Other scientists had already established that if global temperatures rise by 4°C this century − in the notorious business-as-usual scenario in which humans go on burning fossil fuels and depositing ever more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere − then some parts of the globe could become intolerably hot for at least part of the day, and potentially uninhabitable.”
Vital groundwater depleted faster than ever – Alex Kirby, Climate News Network, 20170402
The study’s authors say excessive abstraction of groundwater for irrigation – part of the wider virtual water trade – is leading to rapid depletion of aquifers in key food-producing regions, including north-western India, the North China Plain, central US, and California.”
Despite international efforts to address food insecurity, around 108 million people in the world were severely food insecure in 2016, a dramatic increase compared with 80 million in 2015, according to a new global report on food crises released in Brussels on 31 March 2017 […]

The dramatic increase reflects the trouble people have in producing and accessing food due to conflict, record-high food prices in local markets and extreme weather conditions such drought and erratic rainfall caused by El Niño.”

Pumped dry: India’s accelerating and invisible groundwater crisis – Asit K. Biswas et al., Ecologise, 20170326
India is now facing a water situation that is significantly worse than any that previous generations have had to face. All Indian water bodies within and near population centres are now grossly polluted with organic and hazardous pollutants. Interstate disputes over river waters are becoming increasingly intense and widespread. Not a single Indian city can provide clean water that can be consumed from the tap on a 24×7 basis. Surface water conditions are bad. However, the groundwater situation is even worse.”
This includes natural and anthropogenic pollution, sea-water intrusion, explosive growth of tube-wells, and farmers pumping like there is no tomorrow.
Nearly half of India’s jobs are now in the agricultural sector. If the current trends continue, by 2030 nearly 60% of Indian aquifers will be in a critical condition. This means that some 25% of the agriculture production will be at risk. This would aggravate India’s employment situation.”
Well, let’s not worry about jobs. As stated elsewhere, in 2030 there will likely be no one to get laid off. In the meantime, climate change is unfolding, developing from rapidly to abruptly, and the Indian subcontinent, together with the heart of Africa, might evolve into one of the first regions to become uninhabitable for humans.
The Russian-American writer on his new book about our physical and psychological dependence on global infrastructure and hi-tech for daily survival, and about needing to return to pre-fossil-fuel driven lifestyles and technologies. Both book and podcast

Pearls Before Swine

Discoveries of older articles that – obviously – didn’t change the world.
Seeing Wetiko: On capitalism, mind viruses, and antidotes for a world in transition – Alnoor Ladha & Martin Kirk, Kosmos, 20160511
This is not an anti-European rant. This is the description of a disease whose vector was determined by deep patterns of history,” it says in the essay. The Wetiko, or Wendigo, is a native American concept of an infectious and self-replicating mindset that acts like a virus. It is responsible for the Western culture’s hunger for more, its destructiveness and its denial of it all.  

“This approach of viewing the transmission of ideas as a key determinant of the emergent reality is increasingly validated by various branches of science, including evolutionary theory, quantum physics, cognitive linguistics, and epigenetics.” 

Highly recommended for reading.

False solutions? 3 ways to evaluate grand climate proposals – Jeremy Lent, Patterns of Meaning, 20160322
We need a way to distinguish authentic pathways to a sustainable civilization from false solutions. I suggest three ways to consider any proposal you might come across:
  1. Does it push political power up or down the pyramid?
  2. How does it treat the Earth?
  3. What are its cascading effects?”
‘Civilization’ and ‘sustainable’ in one sentence makes me cringe. Apart from that, when we are pursuing right action, these three questions might make sense. The text contains several good points like,
Geoengineering proposals are based on the notion of the earth as a massive piece of machinery to be engineered for human benefit. Not only are these approaches morally repugnant for anyone who sees Nature as having intrinsic worth, they are also fraught with massive risk, since the earth’s systems are in fact not machine-like, but the result of complex, nonlinear relationships that are inherently unpredictable.”
I elaborated on that, not so long ago, in my article Doom-dee-doom.
Only sixty years of farming left if soil degradation continues – Chris Arsenault, Scientific American, 20141205
58 years to go. Plenty of time to make some money and to think of how to create soil in industrial labs…

Cartoon

The train of civilization
“What if we used bio-char instead of coal?”

The Empire Express, March 2017

A world in collapse, it turns out, is a busy place. One has a hard time keeping up with all the breaking news of mid-term and long-term significance. “May you live in interesting times!” is one famous Chinese curse that Westerners usually fail to understand. We are currently learning the hard way what it truly means. Though not consistently. Often times I want to cry out loud how the worst of desasters still pass us by as though they were scenes from the movies. And really, all that rapid change can just make you dizzy.
With my own writing, I can only cover a small spectrum of topics. At its foundation lies a worldview, or rather, an understanding, that expresses itself in essays whose contents get inspired by the overabundant information flowing in.

In this digest, I would like to present some of the more ‘interesting’ articles I came across recently. I recommend them for either their illustrative information on the state of affairs or their profound insight into what said information means.
Starting out as a monthly category, the frequency may change if needed.

Make careful choices on what you invite into your consciousness and take your time taking in, exploring further, and processing it.

Ongoing Assault

What if all I want is a mediocre life? – Krista O’Reilly Davi Digui, No Sidebar, 201703x
Is a simple life a good enough life?
Can democracy save us? – George Barrett, CounterPunch, 20170327
“Here in Germany there is a term for the (inadequate) proposals of the Green Party to change popular thinking about environmental issues: the Greens’ suggestion in the last national election that it would be a good thing for everyone to refrain from eating meat for one day every week was scorned as attempted “Öko-Diktatur” (Eco-Dictatorship). The Greens were lampooned mercilessly in the press for wanting to control the behavior of Germany’s allegedly politically conscious citizens, and sustained losses in the election as a result. That is the mentality faced by anyone who seriously believes democracy or dialogue can save the environment […] Of course, I am aware that this sounds like a plea for authoritarianism, and I suppose that it is, although I am fully aware that it will not win me many political allies. But I believe that a deluded optimism is far more dangerous than a clear view of a frightening future. In spite of my anarchist heart, I want life on this planet – not only human life, but especially plant and animal life, which it appears ever more likely we would destroy along with ourselves – to survive. And that means, as I see it, in fact, some kind of Eco-Dictatorship.”
Fukushima: government guilty of destroying Pacific Ocean — Daniel Newton, NeonNettle, 20170327
The Maebashi district court ordered government and operator to pay some commpensation.

“Radioactive Debris from Fukushima approaching North America’s western coast. If that weren’t bad enough, Fukushima continues to leak an astounding 300 tons of radioactive waste into the Pacific Ocean every day. It will continue to do so indefinitely as the source of the leak cannot be sealed as it is inaccessible to both humans and robots due to extremely high temperatures. It should come as no surprise, then, that Fukushima has contaminated the entire Pacific Ocean in just five years. This could easily be the worst environmental disaster in human history” and “will likely continue affecting wildlife and humans for the next 250,000 years.”

The nuclear disaster has contaminated the world’s largest ocean in only five years and it’s still leaking 300 tons of radioactive waste every day.

Read more at: http://www.neonnettle.com/news/2003-fukushima-japanese-government-guilty-of-destroying-pacific-ocean-
© Neon Nettle

The nuclear disaster has contaminated the world’s largest ocean in only five years and it’s still leaking 300 tons of radioactive waste every day.

Read more at: http://www.neonnettle.com/news/2003-fukushima-japanese-government-guilty-of-destroying-pacific-ocean-
© Neon Nettle

The nuclear disaster has contaminated the world’s largest ocean in only five years and it’s still leaking 300 tons of radioactive waste every day.

Read more at: http://www.neonnettle.com/news/2003-fukushima-japanese-government-guilty-of-destroying-pacific-ocean-
© Neon Nettle

The nuclear disaster has contaminated the world’s largest ocean in only five years and it’s still leaking 300 tons of radioactive waste every day.

Read more at: http://www.neonnettle.com/news/2003-fukushima-japanese-government-guilty-of-destroying-pacific-ocean-
© Neon Nettle

The nuclear disaster has contaminated the world’s largest ocean in only five years and it’s still leaking 300 tons of radioactive waste every day.

Read more at: http://www.neonnettle.com/news/2003-fukushima-japanese-government-guilty-of-destroying-pacific-ocean-
© Neon Nettle

The nuclear disaster has contaminated the world’s largest ocean in only five years and it’s still leaking 300 tons of radioactive waste every day.

Read more at: http://www.neonnettle.com/news/2003-fukushima-japanese-government-guilty-of-destroying-pacific-ocean-
© Neon Nettle

The nuclear disaster has contaminated the world’s largest ocean in only five years and it’s still leaking 300 tons of radioactive waste every day.

Read more at: http://www.neonnettle.com/news/2003-fukushima-japanese-government-guilty-of-destroying-pacific-ocean-
© Neon Nettle

Near Term Human Extinction has saved my life – DareToBeDifferent, 20170327
“This [Guy McPherson] lecture sent shock waves through me and of course sadness, numbness, but also validation. Validation because I could see how this war machine, deteriorating capitalistic, species slaughtering, ice cap reducing system was all leading to something […] The most important thing is now I am trying to live a life of excellence and I am definitely living here now. It’s changed my life completely and I feel like looking back on it all finding out about NTHE saved me.”
Why being realistic feels like doomsday thinking – Joe Brewer, Medium.com, 20170325
“To avoid the negative has a name in psychology — it is called denial. And far too many among us are in denial right now.”
[Regarding the discussion on climate change] – Charles Eisenstein, 20170324
Although I sometimes get the feeling that figures do not matter enough in Charles’ perspective — after all, without figures we couldn’t state that there is more to the weird weather all over the globe than atmospheric hickups and freak occurances — I absolutely support the points he makes about climate change (and all the rest of our huge pile of civilized trouble) not being physical events merely. There is an emotional dimension to it, a spiritual dimension, and elements that speak to us as biological, tribal beings. Having neglected those has played a huge part in getting us stranded in our predicament. Now, Charles means to say that, if there is a solution, it might be hidden within the neglected and the denied aspects of our lives. For certain, pursuing life not as a supposedly flawed machine but as the wholesome human being that I am, to me, is worth whatever it takes, regardless of outcome. And that is not at all as anthropocentric as it sounds at first. For us to live like humans, to feel human, and to be human does not require our cultural ‘achievement’ in the first place, but our embeddedness with the living planet. Even in its wrecked state there is nothing we can do to improve it.
“This year, NOAA [the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] predicts that a weak to moderate El Nino may form which would further exacerbate climate change driven water stresses in India.
These are tough conditions. But the worst may be yet to come for 2017.
April, May and June is the hottest, driest period for India. And the state is entering this season with almost a 150 million people already facing water stress. Moreover, the warming of Equatorial waters in the Pacific as another El Nino is again expected to emerge increases the risk that the 2017 monsoon could be delayed or weakened. So with a water crisis now ongoing in the south, conditions are likely set to worsen soon.”
We may change to less water-intense crops, but those are not suitable for feeding everyone. The human population needs to go down. People need to understand that it is basically the amount of irrigation water that determines the amount of food available, and that, generally spoken, to reduce the amount of water used for farming results in the reduction of human food. Think about it.
“Climate change is out for the time being,” officials say.
Key issue of climate change: the not at all surprising state of affairs.
Failed government policy regarding electricity and a growing population wanting to eat are meeting changing climatic conditions that impact the Monsoon as the main provider of water.
A recently published study looked into how life recovered after the “Great Dying”, the end-Permian extinction event during which more than “90% of all living creatures went kaput” and found interesting analogies to our current 6th mass extinction.
“This is what makes it so interesting,” Foster told me, “Because you have this huge volcanic eruption that releases all these gases, and then you look at what’s happening today [with climate change] and they’re all the same gases. They’re causing the same effects. So we can say, ‘This is what it did in the past and this is what we might be looking at for the future […]
We don’t think we will reach the threshold we reached in the Great Dying,” Foster told me. “Or, we hope we won’t, anyway.”
Well, one can hope, of course, but for hope to have a tangible efect we need to hope much harder than before, it seems. The article in The Atlantic in which the above-mentioned study was reported describes a few of the conditions we could have found back then — and maybe again tomorrow — if only we were able to survive them for longer than a few minutes.
Adrienne Lafrance did a fine job here because she doesn’t come from that arrogant point of view that ‘this can’t happen to us’. She writes, “the story of life on our planet isn’t the story of a single species at the top of the food chain, but ultimately a tale of relentless adaptability.”

Have We Been Denying Our Human Nature for Four Hundred Years?Eurocentric modernism has unhinged us from our human nature, argues Rajani Kanth in his new book – Lynn Parramore, Films for Action, 20170314
The article doesn’t fully go to the root of our predicament, but it has some damn good points about how our culture does not work out – and where to look for solutions. A must-read.
Revolutions Are Bloody, But So Is Doing Nothing – Paul Craig Roberts, Institute for Political Economy, 20170314
I concur. Staying silent is a political act that supports the ravaging of the living planet.
The convergence of critical climatic tipping points in a brief overview, and the bleak outlook on near-term developments. 1.2C increase since 1880 baseline as mentioned in the article translates into 1.6C increase since 1750 (real) pre-industrial baseline. Beware of snow jobs.
Yemen and several African states across the continent are facing severe droughts. Early stages of abrupt climate change – 1.6C above pre-industrial baseline – and we already see the world burning.

Pearls Before Swine

Discoveries of older articles that – obviously – didn’t change the world.

12 Life Lessons from a Man Who’s Seen 12000 Deaths – Deepak Ramola, Uplift Connect, 20160621
You may have heard of Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse who wrote about the top-10 regrets of the dying. Here is something similar from an Indian perspective. They share certain insights, but there is also a specifically South Asian understanding that Westerners can learn from, like, “Acceptance is liberation”. Facing death consciously liberates from the all-pervasive background fear we often carry around all our lives, and so helps with experiencing life more intensely, more joyfully.
From the NonProfit Industrial Complex with Love – Cory Morningstar, The Art of Annihilation, home, 201703x
How the environmental movement has been hijacked by the mainstream and turned into the activist arm of industrial interests.
Sustainability is destroying the Earth – Kim, Stories of Creative Ecology, 20120828
Similar to Cory Morningstar’s article, Kim shows how sustainability is an expression of the unwillingness to let go of our destructive culture.

Cartoon

The train of civilization
Economic Joyriders
(August 27, 1891 Statesville, North Carolina: A passenger train of the Western North Carolina Railroad derails upon entering Bostian’s bridge, plunging to the creek below)

A bus and a truck: The multiple crises of civilization

Last December, I posted a concise explanation on the state of affairs regarding abrupt climate change – Deep into the spiral – and I concluded that the drastic rise in global average temperature might do homo sapiens in from this year on, due to the inability to grow enough food for our overshot world population. Plenty of research supports this statement. First signs of such a food crisis are failed crops in the US, Australia, Western Europe, India, and several African states within recent months. At the same time we see massive die-offs of sea animals big and small in all the oceans. As the perpetually rising temperatures and ever more numerous weird weather events might not allow for a return to normal, the ensuing mass starvation will wreck societies around the planet, thus leading to the collapse of global industrial civilization. With 435 nuclear reactors in operation and 1200 basins for cooling spent fuel rods, the loss of human capacity as well as the disappearence of the fossil-fuel-driven grid energy for maintaining these structures operational for another ten, or even hundreds of years, will result in desastrous nuclear explosions followed by catastrophic decline of all life on Earth.
Some governments might try and capture some vital resources beforehand, staking out their claims with ABC weapons. Needless to say that this would shorten humanity’s lifetime even further.

One can regard humanity’s multiple crises from many angles, social, environmental, cultural…, all of which point to cataclysmic events in the near future, certainly within my generation’s lifetime. Based on a report by HSBC bank, investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed wrote on 6 Jan. 2017 that we should Brace for the oil, food and financial crash of 2018 because, “80% of the world’s oil has peaked, and the resulting oil crunch will flatten the economy”. While he might have the date wrong, we should ask in the light of modern research when, almost fifty years after the Club of Rome’s analysis, industrial civilization is going to hit the wall that the limits to growth posit. With the converging crises in mind, what is the timeframe we are talking about?
Recently I came across a study that described the thermodynamics of our culture’s energy consumption and their interaction with financial and economic mechanisms. You need to know that there are no freebies. It takes a certain amount of energy to do what you do. It takes a certain amount of energy to extract oil from the ground. Conventional petroleum originally came at very low energy investment, and that left the lion’s share of energy per barrel for industrial activities. As the world’s industrial productivity increased over time, more inconvenient deposits with lesser and lesser energy yield have been drilled into, and we also saw the decline in conventional oil production happen from 2005/2006 on. More expensive unconventional sources with even lesser energy yield became attractive – speaking tar sands and fracking, among others – but since 2015 they seem to be in decline as well.
So a rising demand hits a declining production. With fossil energy getting sparser, prices should rise, yet the declining harvest of net energy per barrel reduces the value for the customer. Once the energy used for extracting, processing, and transporting equals the energy content of the extracted raw material, it will no longer make sense, both energetically and financially, to pump the stuff, no matter how much we would like to have it.
As carbon is an irreplacable raw material that is needed for packaging, insulation, pesticides, jet fuel, powering of mining machinery, lightweight mechanical parts etc etc, the end of affordable oil will bring industrial activities to a sudden halt. Even so-called renewables and alternative energy sources are depending on oil for parts.
Read the details in, End of the “Oilocene”: The Demise of the Global Oil Industry and of the Global Economic System as we know it. 22 Jan. 2017 by FEASTA, the Foundation for Economics of Sustainability.
The bottom line is, energetically, 2021 is very likely the year we hit the wall, and again, political mistakes and military acts of desparation might both shorten the remaining time and worsen the consequences.
See the bus’ destination? [cc by Seattle Municipal Archives]

While I can follow the line of argument of the study it is hard for me to check the validity of the math. Whether the authors have nailed the date, or not, isn’t so much the point here as the fact that the multitude of crises converging on us are an unmistakable sign that our culture, global industrial civilization, is coming to its end, and soon. It is not like we had an awful lot of time to waste. From my understanding, it is late in life, and regardless of what you are intending to do – starting to push back the power of corporations, enjoying your time, or proceeding on the path to awakening – you need to do it right now. Unless we get run over by a bus and a truck, the collapse of civilization is for us to witness, front row & popcorn.

As mentioned above and in previous blog posts, our species is likely to exit the planet shortly after civilization collapses. This is not a question of which countermeasures we employ, which social systems we adopt, or which side in the eternal battle of Good vs Evil you and me are on. We cannot survive without all those species that create oxygen, purify the water, build up soil, and constitute the food chain we depend upon, yet we are utterly destroying those not only directly but by exposing them to an abrupt climatic change that unfolds tenthousand times faster than biological evolution. This is the singularity the techno freaks and futurologists have been talking about, but it’s coming at us from an unexpected angle.
You cannot live in a future that never arrives. Every day, every hour and minute counts. That I personally prepare for collapse before 2020 does not mean I had absolute proof from the data, yet combining all the information I have makes it highly probable to me that impact is imminent. I might be wrong on this account, yet it is an undeniable fact that lifetimes are limited. The recent passing of a beloved one only emphasized the understanding that all we have is just the moment, and that the one thing worth filling it with is love.
So the question remains, what are we going to do with the short time that is left to us? Are we living with urgency? Does it matter to us what we do today – the people we meet, the relationship we have with them, the joy of being alive we feel?
Or are we still working a job we don’t care about, meeting people we despise, and worrying about bills we have to pay? If so –Why?

Doom-dee-doom

Abrupt climate change and consequent near-term human extinction are minefields of their own. For most people I encounter they are next to ungraspable as concepts, and completely unimaginable as a reality. The kind of action me and some other folks from the so-called “doomer community” are proposing is yet another very difficult topic to bring across. We are using scientific data as means to point out the predicament we as a species have manoeuvered ourselves into; at the same time we reject science and technology as means to “solve the problem”. Why do we feel this way?
In an interview with Peter Melton, Zhiwa Woodbury argues:
“We allow ourselves to get bogged down in the debate over what the science says and what it doesn’t say. It’s the same kind of technological approach to the natural world that got us into this mess. it’s all about trajectories and predictions and scientific models, acquiring knowledge, learning about the climate crisis as if it is not us that is in crisis. What we need to consider and focus on is not, how all the pieces of the climate puzzle fit together into our model of externalities but rather the cycle of trauma and dissociation that is implicit in our own subjective and dysfunctional relationship to the natural world which is crying out to us in distress. Then, only then, will we begin to discover insights into how to respond to the crisis.”Viewing the Climate Crisis Through the Lens of Cultural Trauma, Extinction Radio ep. 47, Feb. 12 2016
First issue here is, as Guy McPherson likes to point out, a problem has solutions; a predicament hasn’t. (Why we better to consider ourselves being confronted with a predicament has been explained in previous articles here.)
Accordingly, further meddling with Earth’s systems, so-called geo-engineering, will fail to achieve the intended result, as quite a number of scientific reports show, or even worsenthe predicament. Our goal is not some sort of escape from the consequences of our actions as a species, but rather the acceptance of our role in the uglification and destruction of the living planet, and surrender to our not-quite-unlikely demise. Among the aims of the not-actually-gloomy-minded doomers are, reconnecting to the natural world, living with passion, and the effort to soften the impact on our fellow humans and non-human species as many of us go extinct.
Secondly, to understand that it has been technology that brought about our predicament, and that this technology is nearing the end of its ability to handle the climate situation – or any complex situation at all – is absolutely necessary for being able to open up to more fruitful paths of action. Like a rapist is hardly able to soothe his victim, so is technology not exactly a good choice when we think about healing the wounds it has torn into body and soul of the planet. Seen from this angle, again, geo-engineering cannot be regarded as an option. The patient, Earth’s biosphere, is about to die. Another surgery will not do, and surely not another face-lift, painkiller pill, or band-aid. If some of the planetary life force is supposed to survive civilization’s onslaught, it takes less, not more, technology interfering with its functioning. In other words, we need to learn again how to live as one species among millions of others, and in the appropriate way for humans; this certainly means slower, simpler, lower-tech, more respectful and humble, and face to face, in smaller groups.
Thirdly, the deeper reason for why science and technology won’t be able to help the situation is, they are based on the false assumption that the world ‘out there’ is a pile of mindless ‘resources’, that it is driven by an indifferent set of ‘mechanisms’, and that it can be manipulated and put to use at will, by humans. As a result, human activity, in its totality, has altered the chemistry and physics of the atmosphere and the oceans to a degree where they can function no longer the way we were used to. In effect, we unwittingly did perform an experiment in geo-engineering with the aim of rendering the planet inhabitable; all went well and we are supposed to go extinct within the next decade or so. While some may try and reverse the upward trend in global average temperature, many of us just don’t believe in this kind of ‘saving the Earth’ any longer. How many of those wanting to preserve civilization have ever asked what we need it for, in the first place? All this knowledge piled up, all those gadgets surrounding us, all that progress people try to achieve – what are they good for when they come at the price of our lives having become pointless and the planet going to shreds? What makes you think this is going to change if only we hold on a little longer?
There is no golden age right around the corner. There never was. Let’s face it: Our culture has let itself get lost in a nightmare of ever increasing, ever faster destruction from which we cannot see a way out because we got our premises wrong.
The dark side of modern science, and unfortunately it has one, does not arise from science itself, still less from any of the facts of nature. It arises from the impression we allow science to give us: the impression that we are merely biological machines in a meaningless material universe.”–Is there no other way?, by Michael N. Nagler, 2001.
Overcoming the false assumptions at the foundation of our crises might make the kind of difference that matters. It is not only the climate that has come off-balance; so many things and processes within and without our culture have suffered severe damage, and all for the same reasons: our obsession with separation and control.
Even former US secretary of defense, under Clinton, from 1993 to 1997, William J. Perry, who seemingly does not have spiritual understandings in mind says, in his memoirs,
“technical innovation, private profit and tax dollars, civilian gadgetry and weapons of mass destruction, satellite technology, computers, and ever-expanding surveillance are interconnected.”My journey at the nuclear brink, 2016
The politician also thinks that nuclear strategies are “surreal thinking”, and I concur in both of these statements. Our whole civilization is one vast surreal thought that disturbs our perception of what is really real. Our responses to the crises therefore are inappropriate, even adding to the destruction, and will eventually lead to our fall. When and how that happens, and how deep we fall depends to a certain degree on our collective ability to let go of our perceived entitlement to grid energy, supermarkets, automobility, and tap water.
If we fail to ‘save’ mankind from its fate, the demise of the biosphere can at least take on rather gentle than brutal form. While the world is certainly under no-one’s control, the state of awakening will be crucial to how it is all going to unfold. Healing one’s relationship with the world has a profound effect on everything and everyone around us, allowing for everyone to leave this life in peace.
In order to bring this essay to its conclusion, it needs to be said that it doesn’t take science if we want to understand the predicament as such. The damage done can be seen and felt in other ways as well; it is present within all of us as a background fear or pain. Referring to scientific facts, though, helps with waking up those who firmly believe that science represents the only way to grasp reality. There is more to the story, though. Aspects of life besides our physical existence are affected, and layers of reality beyond the scientifically observable are involved.
Science has every right to confine its attention to the physical, i.e. the outside world. It has no right to say, when it has done so, that it has given us the whole story”, says Michael N. Nagler in his book Is there no other way?
Science has contributed its share to dividing the world into the human and non-human realm. While it has been our deliberate separation from nature that has brought about our predicament, the perception of separateness is only an illusion. At no point have we ever been out of touch with the ‘objects’ we observed, or independent from the community of life we require for our survival; we need the bacteria in our intestines, the oxygen that green beings created, the food that consists of other life forms, and gazillions of other things made out of, or created by, other living beings. And that is just the physical aspect of life. We have been born as parts of this world and we do have an innate understanding of its workings. Our connection to the Source and our ability for wisdom never went away. We may trust our personal observations of the real world, and we should as well trust our gut feelings and intuitions about the situation we are facing. Looking at details, it sure seems complicated. Yet the grand picture is simple enough –
Our world stands before a severe change. Every human being should, from now on, try to live joyfully and peacefully for the rest of his or her life. This would really be the best. Everything else is meaningless and useless and there is no benefit in trying to think your way out of it […]
Humanity has arrived at a moment in time from when on our prayers – no matter whom to – will no longer be heard. There is no stopping what we are up against, no matter how hard we cry. –The Three-Body Problem, by Cixin Liu.
As paradoxical as it may seem, in this moment of profound powerlessness, the final hour of a brief epoch called Anthropocene, when we get shaken up, tossed around, and beaten down by the inescapable consequences of our deeds, there is the unique chance of taking back responsibility for how we live. In the words of conservation biologist and climate researcher Guy McPherson,
Let’s give freely of our time, wisdom, and material possessions. Let’s throw ourselves into humanity and the living planet. Let’s act with compassion and courage. Let’s endow ourselves with dignity.
Even if all the data, models, assessments, and forecasts about abrupt climate change are incorrect, even if Earth can support infinite growth on a finite planet with no adverse consequences, I remain unconvinced there is a better way to live.” –Extinction dialogs: How to live with death in mind, 2015

India without monsoon is like a fish without water

What climate change looks like on the ground in Southern India, in the federate states of Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu. With crops failing catastrophically, and fisheries getting suffocated and depleted, what are people going to eat?


– “The situation is certainly going from bad to worse. At this rate, the water will last for only the next 90 days in most places. We are taking all possible measures, but irrigation is perhaps the last thing on our minds now as we need to save water for all other purposes […] The [Kerala] government decided to, for the first time ever, impose a water rationing system across households and industries.”

“Farmers in Mandya district, part of the Krishnaraja Sagar dam ayacut area [Karnataka], have failed to harvest even a single paddy crop this year.”

[In Tamil Nadu], “around 40 farmers protested outside the Trichy collector’s office, holding dead rats in their mouths, stating that over 47 farmers had committed suicide in the state in the last two months. [Chief minister] Panneerselvam declared all 32 districts drought-affected […] with the deficit [rainfall] ranging from 35% to 81%”

“The numbers in the three states have raised alarm bells everywhere, and what is even more worrying is what they indisputably portend — the coming water wars that will stem from Tamil Nadu’s dependence on its neighbours.”

This is just for starters. We didn’t have a Blue Ocean Event yet, and we have merely seen a 1.6°C rise in global average temperature. 

Beside seafood and grains, the third leg of human nutrition, veggies and fruits, is in decline as well, thanks to pollinator’s struggle for survival.

People need to be prepared, carefully, to expect this, and worse, to extend into the forseeable future, and to find ways to live on less. And not just in India — also in all other countries in the world, especially the industrialised regions. No one is going to deliver food into the cities when farmers are starving, themselves.

A penny for your farts

I’d like to end the month with something weird (?) to ponder.
Whether our lives are predetermined or rather change their course according to our actions, is a question that has never been answered. The latter might trigger a chain of events, though, that is indistinguishable from deterministic fate. Like this:

Scientists have found out that carbon dioxide takes decades to have an impact on Earth’s average temperature. Today’s global average temperature is the result of carbon emissions back in the 20th century, and they already triggered seventy or more self-reinforcing feedback loops that increase temperatures further, without us having to push. A rise by 6C is already locked in and that means, our food base is as good as dead, and so are we.
Our worst onslaught against the previous climate equilibrium is yet to come, though — the even higher carbon emissions of the last few decades, and we are still continuing the pollution.

The sum total of our actions has driven the planet far beyond the treshold of habitability for humans; extinction is a done deal. I can only hope that this is not a problem for anyone. We all got our daily lives to live, deals to make, appointments to take, and scrape up some money for paying the carbon tax on our farts. Near-term human extinction comes somehow inconvenient, which is why many Americans tend to deny climate change. Europeans, ever so energy-efficient, don’t waste their time on denial; they just refrain from thinking the facts through to their very end, while the rest of the world truly doesn’t know what is in store for us. But ignorance is no excuse. Cling together, swing together, and we are just dead men walking.

“All individual organisms die. When the last individual of a species dies, the species is extinct. All species go extinct. Although there is no reasonable counter to these obvious statements, most people refuse to believe humans will be extinct in the near future. In this death-denying, death-defying, omnicidal culture, the thought of our own death—much less our own extinction—is a bit too much for the typical citizen to bear.” —Guy McPherson, Extinction dialogs
 
„So when people dismiss global warming as “doomsday” they are doubly wrong. Firstly, they ridicule those who see how serious this situation is (using language of the absurd to dismiss it). And secondly, they presume the collapse-of-the-future won’t happen — when in reality it already did.“ —Joe Brewer in Extra Newsfeed, 9.1.2017

Deep into the spiral

Welcome to 2017, a year that is going to be different from what we are expecting for it. We all know that our hopes and fears rarely stand the test of time and that the future is a place unlike anything we have imagined. But what if the world was already a different place from what we perceive it to be? What if we are missing some vital information, like, there is a price tag attached to the way we live which we have overlooked – or rather blinked at – all the time? Won’t the creditor show up at some point to collect the debt we have piled up so recklessly? Is 2017 our last chance to save our face by stepping forward to mend our ways?
With all the busy-ness around the xmas season, have you had an eye on the news? What were the headlines in the past few days? Did you get the following one?

This could easily be the most alarming piece of information in all history of mankind so far.
Why?
Because the sun over the North Pole has set three months ago, yet temperatures are rising both in water and air and have locally been crossing the melting point of ice – for the second time in two months, and it is happening within the second consecutive winter.
Average air temperatures on higher latitudes, while still below freezing point, are way above any reasonable deviation from standard.
red line shows 2016’s average temperature north of 80° latitude;
green line shows 1958-2002 average temperature north of 80° latitude.
This is not just freakish weather. Last time the red line roughly followed average records was in 2004, so we are looking at a long-term heating trend here. 
–click to enlarge–
This means, instead of building up, winter sea ice is stagnating slightly above already-reduced summer extents and volumes. Thin, broken-up and slushy ice is going to be very vulnerable to the return of spring. The Blue-Ocean Event, an ice-free Arctic Ocean, becomes quite likely in 2017, and it would not be mistaken for a blue-lagoon event.
 [source: Polar Science Center/APL]
The Arctic ice shield is being battered since decades already, and its volume and extent reduced so much that scientists are talking about a death spiral.
–click to enlarge–
 [source: Polar Science Center/PIOMAS]
The loss of albedo along with reduced cooling of the surface water and its direct exposure to sunlight will rapidly heat the sea surface, and an increased mixing of surface and deep waters thanks to wind-driven movement subsequently allows for the heat to reach the methane clathrates in shallow places like the East Siberian shelf. It is to be noted that minimal increases in water temperature may allow for a burp of 50 gigatons of methane from that area alone, with thousands of gigatons more distributed all over the Arctic.

[interview with Russian Arctic researcher Natalia Shakhova]

Methane is a very potent greenhouse gas of which there are currently 5 Gt in the atmosphere. The amount likely to be released would increase atmospheric levels from currently 250% above pre-industrial standards to significantly higher levels, resulting in an increase of global average temperature by another 1.1°C or more within weeks. Thanks to about 70 self-reinforcing feedback loops that have already been kicked off, runaway heating as calculated by the next graph seems guaranteed.

–click to enlarge–
 [conservatively adding up a few sources of heating]

All of which affects our ability to grow food due to heat waves, water shortages, more severe storms, erratic weather patterns, and the outpacing of crop plants’, bees’, and soil micro organisms’ ability to adapt.
The consequences of impaired food production are all too obvious.
Wars over water, arable land, and other resources would destroy even more habitats and bring down civilization for sure. Once we enter the slippery slope of a downward population curve, through wars or through starvation alone, there is no turning back; humanity’s estimate lifetime from there on is numbered in months. 
The prolongation of our lives is depending on an exceptionally cold arctic spring and summer 2017 to allow for fresh ice to be built up which would postpone Blue Ocean for another year or two, but I wouldn’t bet a lousy penny on that one. It is not that I don’t like to live and see this planet thrive in turn, but industrial civilization has consumed Earth’s life forms to the point where our own demise has become due, and overdue, already. Climate change is just one of a myriad of destructive forces unleashed by our culture, from social disparity to plastic pollution to structural violence to frankenfood to endless wars to animals’ habitat loss; we cannot drive hundreds of species extinct each single day and expect our own survival to stay unquestioned. At one point it is going to be our own food chain that is collapsing.
Notwithstanding probable effects of a Blue Ocean Event, few people seem to know that the current level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, according to paleoclimatic records, already subsribes us to a 6°C rise in global average temperature.
They don’t know that current temperatures are the result of pollution from decades ago, and that, since then, we have significantly increased emissions again, the consequences of which are yet to manifest, and that’s unstoppable. 6°C. You cannot go back to undo it.

Carbon dioxide, followed by Methane, followed by Temperatures; graph covers last 420,000 years and establishes close link between greenhouse gases and global average temperatures
–click to enlarge–

The figures are public, their relation to real-life consequences established and in its first stages already visible as predicted — just way earlier than expected (haven’t you noticed how often this phrase pops up recently?). Yet we don’t hear about the polar situation on TV; they missed it three times in a row already. Nor are politicians setting out to doing something — and they never will, like they never did. As a matter of fact, the opposite is happening: economic growth (and therefore pollution) is being fostered and promoted while the climate debate is being trifled. Apart from very few counter examples, scientists are afraid to speak up, while IPCC and COP conferences are playing down the issue: outdated figures that are conservative to begin with are being fed into inadequate climate models which do not consider powerful feedback loops like methane and water vapor; those models therefore soften probable effects and postpone them into a distant future. On top of all that, draft reports have to pass through a lengthy consensus-making process including both scientists and politicians. This has consequences of its own:

First, the scientific goal of 1°C maximum temperature rise has been changed into the political goal of 2°C.
Then, pre-industrial baseline has been shifted from 1750 to 1880, a date when most of Europe and America were heavily industrialized already; this removed 0.3°C temperature rise from the IPCC’s calculation, yet the 2°C goal has not been corrected to 1.7°C.
Baseline has been shifted again, this time to the average of 1951-1980, and we can see already attempts to shift baseline yet another time, to the average of 1979-2000, from the date when satellites allowed for gapless observation of Earth’s surface. The upper limit for warming, 2°C, has once more not been adjusted accordingly for the temperature rise that has happened between 1750 and the new baseline dates. In other words, public debate is engaged in window dressing.
In truth, we are talking about an already-reached 1.6 (Carana) to 1.95°C (Mann/Beckwith) temperature rise since 1750, a good proportion of which has happened within the last three years (roughly 0.5°C in 2016 alone).

Neglecting the discussion about precise figures, it still remains a fact that, with the relatively small rise in temperature so far, we are experiencing a massively increased amount of droughts, wildfires, superstorms, floodings, temperature anomalies, monsoon failures, crop failures, algy blooms, ocean acidification, landslides, animal die-offs, ice-sheets melt-offs, methane releases from permafrost and see floor, etc. In such a situation, not the slightest temperature rise is desirable, yet it happens — and it happens quicker than expected.

graph shows a doubling in catastrophic events since ~2000, a quadrupling since 1980.
[Source: © 2016 Munich Re, Geo Risks Research, NatCatSERVICE. As of July 2016]
–click to enlarge–

Following political and economic leaders, many ordinary people are in denial, though most are simply ignorant of the data and its meaning.

If you are one of them — that’s fine; Godspeed, and may you enjoy a long and happy life. Sorry I bothered you. Be free to proceed business as usual.
This summary of current events is based on the work of some of the foremost scientists and journalists, crosschecked with my personal observation of weather patterns as well as my understanding of the World, and it is meant as a warning to those who do have a basic understanding themselves; people like my mother of 65 who immediately got the point and who wanted to know more. She said she had guessed we were in trouble because she had sensed something was wrong with the World, and that the TV was feeding her lies instead of explanations on the disquieting things she had seen. “I’m not stupid!”, she grumbled.
Bottom line is, Time is short; it always was. Our lives have always been limited in extent, yet we are wasting so much time on fighting for peanuts. Extreme events, though, reveal extreme evil. If abrupt climate disruption, if collapse of civilization is a reality you share with me, it makes a lot of sense to prepare for near-term impact so that we get through the turbulence with as little violence and with as much dignity as possible. Each of us can, and should, work to direct public outrage into constructive channels, withdraw our support from war preparation and management, share knowledge and resources, and do our best to reduce suffering for others — humans as well as other beings. This requires us to stay calm ourselves. It can only get achieved through acceptance of our predicament. If, thus far, you haven’t grieved for the Earth and what humans have done to it, this is your place to start.


It have been those rare scientists who did speak up and preceded me in concluding that abrupt climate change leads to near-term human extinction who made this blog possible, first and foremost professor Guy McPherson, but also Sam Carana, Peter Wadhams, Paul Beckwith, and a host of great writers and speakers like Dahr Jamail, Carolyn Baker, Robin Westenra, Jennifer Hynes, Kevin Hester, Deb Ozarko, Derrick Jensen, and Mike Ruppert, as well as courageous news anchors like Thom Hartmann and Paul Henry.