The iceberg is sinking fast

I am currently translating a book on climate change, its consequences, and how do deal with it. One of the sources mentioned in there is a Report of The Environmental Pollution Panel by the President’s Science Advisor Committee, issued in November 1965 to advise US President Lyndon B. Johnson on the effects of pollution on the nation’s health and economy. The report’s title is, “Restoring the Quality of Our Environment, which implies that said environment had already decreased to a significant amount in quality, and that this was acknowledged. In fact, the table of contents reads like from an eco warrior’s bible.
I would like to quote a few passages from it, to illuminate the extent to which the US government knew fifty (!) years ago where the train of industrial civilization is headed.
On “possible effects of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide on climate”
“We may compute from his data [F. Möller, On the influences of changes in the CO2 concentration in air on the radiation balance of earth’s surface and on the climate; in Journal of Geophysical Research, 1963] that with a 25% increase in the atmospheric CO2, the average temperature near the Earth’s surface could increase between 0.6C and 4C” (p121)
and they go on to describe how water vapor plays a role in increasing the effect of atmospheric CO2, through a self-reinforcing feedback loop.
They also mention C. G. Callendar‘sgroundbreaking work in the late 30s and the 40s regarding temperature increase through carbon increase. (p122)
Atmospheric warming due to an increase in the CO2 content of the atmosphere may result in a catastrophically rapid melting of the Antarctic ice cap, with an accompanying rise in sea level. [The authors think, though, that] such melting must occur relatively slowly on a human scale.” (p123)
Well, we know about self-reinforcing feedback loops and we can witness first-hand how both Arctic and Antarctic ice caps are melting like snow in the sun, with record losses on both poles at the same time in October and November 2016, which is a first in human history. Imagine it’s winter on the North pole, it’s pitch dark and it’s supposed to be below -20C, but sea ice is melting.
Pronounced effect on the distribution of some fisheriesthrough warming of the oceans’ surface water counts among further ramifications of increased CO2levels. The authors note that“the amelioration of oceanic climate also resulted in a marked retreat of sea icearound the edges of the Arctic Ocean.”
The authors furthermore note that the burning of limestone for cementand other construction purposes contributes a significant amount of CO2to the atmosphere, that the growth of agricultural areahas reduced forests and grass lands and has triggered the oxidisation of ocean-based and soil-based carboninto CO2, which means they identified another self-reinforcing feedback loop (p123f)
The authors then conclude:
“Through his worldwide industrial civilization, Man is unwittingly conducting a vast geophysical experiment. Within a few generations he is burning fossil fuels that slowly accumulated in the earth over the past 500 million years. The CO2 produced by this combustion is injected into the atmosphere; about half of it remains there. The estimated recoverable reserves of fossil fuels are sufficient to produce nearly a 200% increase in the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere.

By the year 2000 the increase in atmospheric CO2 will be close to 25% [accurate!]. This may be sufficient to produce measurable and perhaps marked changes in climate, and will almost certainly cause significant changes in the temperature and other properties of the stratosphere” (p126)

It’s 1965 and they are accurate again!

“The climatic changes that may be produced by the increased CO2 content could be deleterious from the point of view of human beings.” (p127)
Ha! And not to mention from the point of view of failing ecosystems. The authors then go on to describe fantasy technology needed to remove the CO2 from the atmosphere. This must be one of the first mentionings of geo-engineering.
“We can conclude that, at least during the recent past, fossil fuel combustion has been the only significant source of CO2 added to the ocean-atmosphere-biosphere system.” (p131)
So much for solar activity, cosmic rays, or natural climate cycles being responsible for Earth’s predicament.
Subsequent reports, like the research done by Exxon(temperatures are likely to rise by a catastrophic 5 degrees Celsius, with rises of 6, 7 or even more quite possible”), the briefing of the Alliance of Small Island States to the Copenhagen Climate Summit (“350ppm is a death sentence”), and a scenario created for the Pentagon, all underline the reality of the climatic threat and the necessity for action. The Pentagon report (An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for US National Security, by Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall, October 2003) is “imagining the unthinkable”. It states:
“There is substantial evidence to indicate that significant global warming will occur during the 21st century. […] gradual global warming could lead to a relatively abrupt slowing of the ocean’s thermohaline conveyor, which could lead to harsher winter weather conditions, sharply reduced soil moisture, and more intense winds in certain regions that currently provide a significant fraction of the world’s food production. With inadequate preparation, the result could be a significant drop in the human carrying capacity of the Earth’s environment”
“These [changes] could occur in several food producing regions around the world at the same time within the next 15-30 years, challenging the notion that society’s ability to adapt will make climate change manageable.”
I think we have read enough to understand that the governments of the world are well informed on what is really going on with the climate, but they don’t tell.
I also think we all have seen enough in our own environment or on the news to come to the conclusion that climate change is neither a hoax nor a pony farm experience we could wiggle our way out of easily.
Throughout all those years since 1965, something could have been done to stop, curb, or mitigate the development. Our boat didn’t have to hit the iceberg, yet it did so at full speed, and catastrophic damage is irreversibly done – only this time, the berg is sinking… first.
I therefore think that in today’s situation don’t ask, don’t tellis a non-appropriate policy – more than ever, for it never was. We should not only ask ourselves, but our governments, economic leaders and media enterprises why none of this makes the headlines of every single news show, similar to the financial crisis of 2008 when all frequencies bothered us with banks’ death screams for months on end. Why have they driven us into this – in broad daylight, in full sight, and the headlights on?
When you hear your government – be it the German, the Indian, the Chinese, the Russian, or the You-name-it government – when you hear your government claim that they are doing something about climate change, be aware that, in fifty years, they have done exactly nothing to curb the effects of industrial activities and the corresponding lifestyle; they have hidden the facts, as described above, from you and deliberately downplayed the ramifications of industrial pollution while economic growth has been maintained as the primary objective in decision-making. How likely is it that anything has changed in the meantime, given that major experts warn of near-term human extinction due to temperature increases way beyond 4C while your favorite politician, whoever it is, holds we could stop at the 2C we have already (!) reached? Think about it.
 
Dance of death to the music of the abrupt heating of the Earth has started. We are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction, and anyone who thinks you can drive 200 species a day into the abyss and have a planet that is empty except for eight billion humans is dreaming. At one point, it’s going to be us – not because we run out of ideas, but because our ability to grow food will have been destroyed utterly.
Maybe it’s time for you to take some time and think about how you would live if your time was short. What is truly, deepy important to you? What would you like to pursue?
Why are you not doing it right now?

Good grief!

Tamil Nadu stares at water crisis as rain fails

“Tamil Nadu is staring at one of its worst water crises. Going by data put out by the public works department, the major irrigation reservoirs in the state have a combined storage of only 15% of its total capacity, which continues to dwindle. The northeast monsoon has been deficient in most districts with the meteorological department recording a 66% deficiency. The state had [already] suffered a deficit rainfall during the southwest monsoon between June and September this year. ‘Both agriculture and water supply will be adversely affected given the present scenario,’ said a senior government official, seeking anonymity.”Times of India, 16 Nov 2016

India has severe problems with a Monsoon that has become increasingly erratic over the last two decades. Two months after the Winter Monsoon’s regular starting date, 1st October, the local plateau here has seen but a handful of rainy days, only one of which resembled somehow seasonally normal conditions.
Yesterday we had a full-day powercut which low pressure in the hydroelectric powerplants may have contributed to. As the farm is allowed to pump water from the well only every other day, and as – thanks to a biased arbitration decision – we have lost all storage capacity to neighbours who are making no proper use of those, nor of the land we had to hand over to them, this poses a threat to the existence of the place. And it is just the beginning of what seems to be part of a steep decline into global destruction. Forget about food security in a town where the little farming we have receives an abundance of contempt from a society in which a sizeable fraction of the population believes tourists’ money and government grants equal sustainable living.
I know that the Californian drought is going on for more than five years already, causing almonds and nuts shortages and price spikes in farwaway Germany. I know that places on the American plains and elsewhere in the World have been hit much earlier and much harder already than Southeast India, but that newspaper article, which I read only yesterday in the evening drove it home; drove it home to the deeper place where it belongs, beyond the mind.

I read it, and I cried.
I remembered having looked at sea ice graphs and global temperature figures and jetstream projections and polar weather maps just a few hours before, and I cried.
I looked up at the starlit raintree canope in front of my hut, and I cried.
I am not afraid of dying, and I know that all things shall pass; yet I cried for the untimely demise of all that beauty, considering how each of us has contributed – and is perpetually contributing – to its impending extinction. The cows, the crickets; the goats, the grass; the hares, the humans; the paddy birds and the palmyra; this beautiful, garbage-strewn, sun-baked land of India which in the not-so-distant future might face civil war over precious water crossing hate-based state borders.

I can feel how quite a few believe that I’m nuts (likely not those who made it this far into the text; thanks for still being with me). I am very aware of the fact that I am standing in a millennia-old tradition of doomsayers, all of which have been graced with being spared the real thing; 2012, after all, has come and passed not that long ago. And this as well is part of why I am crying: because the writing’s on the wall, in capital letters, everywhere around us, still everyone carries on as if those were just minor glitches on a TV screen. Seen it before; won’t happen to me. It’s a conversation you can’t have unless you seek to run into a wall of escapism, denial, and unfounded hopes.

I have been grieving before and I have been crying before. Understanding the inescapability and necessity of it all leaves no other choice, apart from closing my eyes. I do close my eyes sometimes, though not for a childlike kind of hiding; it is to connect to the joy of being alive, to focus on the love from which right action will come, and to be present for what needs to be witnessed.

Talking about aliens

Donald Trump says he believes there is ‘some connectivity’ between humans and climate change in major U-turn”, the Independent reported yesterday.

Have you seen the SciFi film “Independence Day”? Do you remember the scene when… you know, the moment when the US president is being confronted with the truth about Area 51 and the existence of alien invaders?
I think with Trump, it must have gone like this:
Trump (on being briefed on evidence for abrupt global warming): Since when do we know about this?
Staff: Since the 1970s; Big Oil did some pretty thorough research on the effects of burning fossil fuels. The UN also figured it out, in the late 80s.
Trump: And this is definitely going to kill us?
Staff: Yes, we did some research of our own. The Pentagon, in 2003, got a report saying, climate change was not going to be a walk in the park, and in 2009, the Alliance of Small Island States briefed the UN that, at the current atmospheric concentration of CO2, we are already locked into a 6°C temperature increase, and sea levels are bound to rise by 23 meters. And that’s just for starters.
Trump(baffled): And why did nobody ever tell me???
Staff: Five words – one hundred percent credible deniability.
Trump: !!!

Breathmatch

With fracking, mountain-top removal, the Athabasca tar sands, millions of acres of burning forests, hundreds of species disappearing each day, oceanic trash vortices, nuclear desasters, the sputtering Gulf stream, both polar ice caps melting at the same time, and sky-rocketing greenhouse gas emissions, what more does it take people not only to see, but to… act? And then again, with so many inescapable avalanches like the clathrate gun triggered, what’s the point of activism, other than making a point of one’s will to change the world? What would be the right way to act, anyway, when it has been for the idea that human activity could improve on creation that everything became so ugly? And if you knew how to act appropriately, how would you stand up to an omnicidal system that – until now, though not for much longer – provides you with everything you need for survival (and therefore makes you complicit in the destruction)?
So many questions with nobody to answer them on TV. We’re not exactly lied to when the talk is about probable human extinction until 2100 in case we don’t curb emissions, are we? Five to ten years from now, no matter what we do, matches quite well with it. The someone who came up with postponing all issues to the next turn of the century was a genius. 2100 is far off into the future. In 2100 none of us will be around anyway. 2100 sounds so much more comfortable than 2030, doesn’t it? 
But it is not like we are going to leave our children and grandchildren a mess which they would bitterly complain about. They’ll be extinguished, too. No one there to complain, no one there to take the blame either.
Grief is now with me all the time. Accepting one’s own mortality is quite a different thing from being faced with the probable near-term eradication of all life. Yet as both human society and the community of life are unraveling, each day a little further, a little faster, I function well thanks to having switched to a saner lifestyle some years ago. I can take my time to look at this feeling more closely: This grief is not of the depressing kind. It rather feels like a looking glass with regards to everything I do or think about. I take joy in simple tasks like cleaning the floor. I find meaning in suffering, direction within chaos. All relationships have greatly intensified in the face of impending collapse.

I breathe in. I breathe out. I am alive right now, along with most of the species supposedly dying out somewhen today. I do not deserve another day; yet I receive this gift and I am grateful for having been given premonition; the chance to witness, to understand… this – neither in panic, nor in denial, but consciously.

Nevermind

So the obituary for the Great Barrier Reef was premature, a failed attempt at alarmist satire. I find this rather distasteful with noteworthy real tragedy happening all over the planet. But this is almost beside the point. The reefs are treminal; the acidification of the oceans cannot be undone, the melting of ice caps, clathrates, and permafrost which heat up oceans and atmosphere ever further cannot be stopped and there is no sign that civilization is about to terminate its damaging activities anytime soon – not before global depletion brings it to a sudden halt.
I ask myself every day if there is still anything to be done, but no, it’s simply time to stop extraction, production, consumption, manipulation, safeguarding, attempts at global control; not because that’s somehow ‘moral’ but because there is no use in them any longer, at least not without a different perspective on life.
Let me repeat what I replied to someone’s comment to the previous posting:
What I didn’t emphasize here is the notion of acting without attachment, and acting from feeling connected to somebody or something, rather than acting from the standpoint of “we got to do something”, or “getting it under control” both of which are coming from fear, like the whole idea of civilization is. Even from a manipulative point of view, non-action sometimes is the right thing to do, like when you are caught in a patch of quicksand where each movement only makes you sink faster. This is of course counterintuitive to humans, but that’s exactly what’s required of us at this moment, I believe.
In a way I do recommend letting go of activism for a moment, before continuing from an aspiration that runs deeper than the desire to maintain the status quo. Maybe that takes rejection of ‘doing’ altogether, for a short period, – for me it did – though ‘doing’ is not a bad thing as such. It has no value in and of itself. Motivation counts, I guess is what I am trying to say.

Permaculture and the Megamachine

The other day I gave a comment, saying that, with so many tipping points crossed and so many self-reinforcing feedback loops already triggered, there is not much hope mankind would survive the oncoming steep temperature increase. The reply was that the gloom-and-doom preachers just don’t know how much CO2 permaculture techniques were able to sequester. There are two points I wish to address.

First of all, with all the criticism I use to direct towards scientism – the belief that science alone can define the nature and contents of reality – we all depend on the results of scientific research in order to evaluate what is about to happen. Apart from the rather anecdotal observations from our own environment scientific data is the foundation for climate discussions. One can interpret it in various ways but the figures as such are already awe-inspiring. With previously relatively conservative scientists like Peter Wadhams now pointing out that we are effectively effed, I think it is not adequate to dismiss the messenger as a doom-and-gloom fearmonger. That goes especially for McPherson whose intention is not spreading fear or defeatism. He expressly encourages people to actually live for the things or the people they love rather than continuing to trying to uphold the zombie obedience to the machine which created the mess in the first place.

Which brings me to my second point. Most of the permaculture scene, like all the rest of society, does not question the origin of the many crises this planet is currently going through. These people are still looking for technical solutions when it was technology – and the mindset of separation and control behind it – that has created those crises. Even if we solved the climate issue – which I doubt because we will not stop wanting to grow, and therefore wanting to produce stuff, and therefore using more energy, and therefore producing more heat – there still is mass unemployment, mass poverty, mass extinction, desertification, dying oceans, diminished forests, resources depletion, overpopulation, criminality, war, nuclear waste, plastic pollution, child labour, inflation, … you name it. All of this is inherent to the thing that Mumford called the Megamachine, civilization. None of it will go away as long as the notion of separation from, and control over nature prevails, a notion which lies at the very heart of civilization. Civilization HAS to end, or the price we pay is our planet going Venus.
If there is any hope for survival of life on Earth it will not lie in doing, for it was doing that brought us here; hope lies in the collapse of belief in the ideology of control. Hope, though, is part of the collective illusion that prevents us from seeing reality as it is rather than the way we wish it to be. Awakening to the true nature of existence is a task that has to be picked up by each person individually, and it implies surrendering to the possibility of complete annihilation, without fear. Fear of death kills everything.

Grief, yes, we will grief for the loss of loved ones – butterflies, bluebirds, sequoias, relatives, friends, last not least ourselves. And it will be for the love of these that life may find a way. 

Instrumental utilitarianism

“I’m not saying climate change isn’t a factor. But there are causes that are a lot more tangible. In many places people say, “The rains stopped coming because we cut down the forests.” I think we need to move toward making the forests sacred again, and the mangroves, and the rivers… to see them as sacred beings and not as instruments of human utility, to be protected because of their greenhouse mitigating contribution.
The attitude of instrumental utilitarianism toward nature — that is the problem. I’m talking about the idea that the world outside ourselves is basically a pile of resources whose value is defined by its utility. If that doesn’t change, nothing will change. And for that to change, for us to see nature and the material world as sacred and valuable in its own right, we must connect to the deep part of ourselves that already knows that. When we make that connection and feel the hurts of the planet, grief is unavoidable.

From this stance, we still seek to change everything that the CO2 narrative names as dangerous, but for different reasons and with different eyes.”
~~Charles Eisenstein

Listen to the guy

An activist, in announcing his retreat from publishing, expresses some thoughts I am pondering since quite a few years.

“(1) Remain calm: Nothing is under control;
(2) I’ve never suggested giving up — whatever that means — for many reasons; and
(3) I’ve offered several paths worthy of pursuit, all within the realm of reason […]

In short, I’ve given it my best shot. I’ve sacrificed my way of living, my means of making a living, and — most importantly — relationships with friends, co-workers, colleagues, and family. Unless I come to the prompt attention of the well-documented liars within the culture of insanity commonly referred to as “normal,” I have nothing substantive left to give […]
I’m left with little to say and little energy with which to say it. The evidence I present is met by cries of “impossible” and “cherry picking,” not to mention the terror of the abyss when I remove all hope.
Opinions trump evidence in a culture gone mad. The populace cannot distinguish evidence from opinion when the dumbing down has succeeded. And we’re there.
Despite the serious blow to my ego, I’m admitting the insignificance of my impact beyond a few, exceptional individuals.”
[Guy McPherson, 1 Sept 16]

Farewell, Guy. Time to allow yourself a little bit of happiness .