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Apocalypse How? Scientists Unveil 12 Risks That Threaten Human Existence

Apocalypse How? Scientists Unveil 12 Risks That Threaten Human Existence

From ‘Armageddon’ to ‘Day After Tomorrow’ to ‘Independence Day’, many have speculated as to the eventual demise of human life on the planet but – according to Dennis Pamlin of the Global Challenges Foundation, no scientists had “compiled a list of global risks with impacts that, for all practical purposes, can be called infinite,” until now. The following list of 12 possible ways that human civilization might end – ranked from least to most likely, come with a warning, “we don’t want to be accused of scaremongering but we want to get policy makers talking.” We suspect Paul Krugman will be happy at the economic growth potential…

 

 

The four main goals of this report are to acknowledge, inspire, connect and deliver.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

The Age of Consequences

The Age of Consequences

I have a new book out from Counterpoint Press! It is titled The Age of Consequences: a Chronicle of Concern and Hope and it includes an Introduction by Wendell Berry. Here is a brief description, followed by a selection from the Prologue. For a review (and to order) see:

http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-61902-454-0

This is a book about questions and answers.

We live in what sustainability pioneer Wes Jackson calls “the most important moment in human history,” meaning we live at a decisive moment of action. The various challenges confronting us are like a bright warning light shining in the dashboard of a speeding vehicle calledCivilization, accompanied by an insistent and annoying buzzing sound, requiring immediate attention. I call this moment the Age of Consequences – a time when the worrying consequences of our hard partying over the past sixty years have begun to bite hard, raising difficult and anguished questions.

How do you explain to your children, for example, what we’ve done to the planet – to their planet? How do you explain to them not only our actions but our inaction as well? It’s not enough simply to say that adults behave in complex, confusing, and often contradictory ways because children today can see the warning light in Civilization’s dashboard for themselves. When they point, what do we say?

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Seneca’s pyramids: how fast did the Mayan civilization fall?

Seneca’s pyramids: how fast did the Mayan civilization fall?

Monument building cycle of the Mayan civilization. From “Sylvanus G. Morley and George W. Brainerd, The Ancient Maya, Third Edition (Stanford University Press, 1956), page 66.”. Courtesy of Diego Mantilla.

Once you give a name to a phenomenon, you can focus your attention on it and learn more and more about it. So, the “Seneca Cliff” idea turns out to be a fruitful one. It tells us that, in several cases, the cycle of exploitation of a natural resource follows a forward skewed curve, where decline is much faster than growth. This is consistent with what the Roman philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca wrote: “increases are of sluggish growth, but the way to ruin is rapid.” With some mathematical tricks, the result is the following curve:

This curve describes the behavior of several complex systems, including entire civilizations which experienced an abrupt collapse after a long period of relatively slow growth. In my first post on the seneca cliff, I already discussed the collapse of the Mayan Civilization (*)

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Revolution, Part 2: The New Paradigm | Degrowth 2014

Revolution, Part 2: The New Paradigm | Degrowth 2014.

Worried about the shit hitting the fan on climate change and other major crises? Good. Because those crises prove that civilization is in the midst of a phase shift to new forms – and we’ve got the opportunity, right now, to ride the wave of five interlinked revolutions in information, food, energy, finance and ethics, to co-create a new way of being that works for everyone.

In part 1, I pointed to the leading edge work of University of Turin economist Prof Mauro Bonaiuti on the deeper roots of the ongoing crisis of capitalism in a wider environmental crisis, where the ‘endless growth’ model of unlimited material accumulation is increasingly breaching natural and environmental limits of the biosphere.

Bonaiuti’s message though, far from being all doom and gloom, captures how this phenomenon is symptomatic of a shift in the very nature of civilization itself as it transitions to new social and political forms, as the limits of the biosphere enforce human practices to adapt to the consequences of breaching these limits. This ‘phase shift’ means we are on the brink of a fundamental change in the way civilization works, one that could have both positive and negative outcomes – depending on the choices we make as a species.

Here, I round up what I believe to be the five most significant ‘revolutions’ that constitute the positive components of this phase shift, and whose inexorable evolution and proliferation offer profound opportunities for systemic transformation that benefits humanity, and the planet: information, energy, food, finance and ethics.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Role of Cities in Moving Toward a Sustainable Economy « Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy

The Role of Cities in Moving Toward a Sustainable Economy « Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy.

I encounter many young adults who are discouraged by America’s failure to respond to big issues affecting the future of Planet Earth and human civilization. They do not see much opportunity to make major changes, especially at the governmental level. But empowering examples can illustrate how significant changes can be made in governance at many levels. Cities can and have provided some model changes, but we will never get to a sustainable, steady state, true-cost economy when major energy and land-use decisions continue to take us in the opposite direction.

Cities like Seattle, San Francisco, Portland (Oregon), and Chicago have led the way with enlightened environmental and economic policies. In Washington, DC, I served on Mayor Gray’s “green ribbon” panel to help fashion a comprehensive green plan for the nation’s capital.

This post focuses, however, on a lesser known city, Austin, Texas, that made big economic decisions that changed the dynamics in energy, transportation, land-use, and self-reliance.

The post is about what a hippy flower-child was able to do in Austin by getting elected to the city council. Max Nofziger left his family’s farm in northwest Ohio over 40 years ago and went to live in Austin. He was a hippy and initially made his living selling flowers on street corners, but managed to get elected to the city council and his persistence and rationality helped lead the way for some significant changes.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Archdruid Report: Dark Age America: The Fragmentation of Technology

The Archdruid Report: Dark Age America: The Fragmentation of Technology.

It was probably inevitable that last week’s discussion of the way that contemporary science is offering itself up as a sacrifice on the altar of corporate greed and institutional arrogance would field me a flurry of responses that insisted that I must hate science.  This is all the more ironic in that the shoddy logic involved in that claim also undergirded George W. Bush’s famous and fatuous insistence that the Muslim world is riled at the United States because “they hate our freedom.”

 

In point of fact, the animosity felt by many Muslims toward the United States is based on specific grievances concerning specific acts of US foreign policy. Whether or not those grievances are justified is a matter I don’t propose to get into here; the point that’s relevant to the current discussion is that the grievances exist, they relate to identifiable actions on the part of the US government, and insisting that the animosity in question is aimed at an abstraction instead is simply one of the ways that Bush, or for that matter his equally feckless successor, have tried to sidestep any discussion of the means, ends, and cascading failures of US policy toward the Middle East and the rest of the Muslim world.
In the same way, it’s very convenient to insist that people who ask hard questions about the way that contemporary science has whored itself out to economic and political interests, or who have noticed gaps between the claims about reality made by the voices of the scientific mainstream and their own lived experience of the world, just hate science. That evasive strategy makes it easy to brush aside questions about the more problematic dimensions of science as currently practiced. This isn’t a strategy with a long shelf life; responding to a rising spiral of problems by insisting that the problems don’t exist and denouncing those who demur is one of history’s all-time bad choices, but intellectuals in falling civilizations all too often try to shore up the crumbling foundations of their social prestige and privilege via that foredoomed approach.
…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

As world food demand rises, soil erosion poses growing threat — Transition Voice

As world food demand rises, soil erosion poses growing threat — Transition Voice.

Outside the entrance of the glorious Hall of Western History are the marble lions, colorful banners, and huge stone columns. Step inside, and the popular exhibits include ancient Egypt, classical Greece, the Roman Empire, the Renaissance, Gutenberg, Magellan, Columbus, Galileo, and so on. If we cut a hole in the fence, and sneak around to the rear of the building, we find the dumpsters, derelicts, mangy dogs, and environmental history.

The Darwin of environmental history was George Perkins Marsh, who published Man and Nature in 1864 (free download). Few educated people today have ever heard of this visionary. Inspired by Marsh, Walter Lowdermilk, of the Soil Conservation Service, grabbed his camera and visited the sites of old civilizations in 1938 and 1939. He created a provocative 44-page report, Conquest of the Land Through Seven Thousand Years (free download). The government distributed over a million copies of it.

Lowdermilk helped inspire Tom Dale of the Soil Conservation Service, and Vernon Gill Carter of the National Wildlife Federation, to write Topsoil and Civilization, published in 1955 (free download). Both organizations cooperated in the production of this book. Following the horror show of the Dust Bowl, they were on a mission from God to promote soil conservation.

– See more at: http://transitionvoice.com/2014/12/soil-erosion-may-get-us-before-climate-change-does/#sthash.OcsvF4WL.dpuf

BREAD, CIRCUSES & BOMBS – DECLINE OF THE AMERICAN EMPIRE – PART TWO « The Burning Platform

BREAD, CIRCUSES & BOMBS – DECLINE OF THE AMERICAN EMPIRE – PART TWO « The Burning Platform.

In Part One of this article I discussed the similarities between the Roman Empire and the American Empire at a high level. In this article I’ll delve into some specific similarities and rhymes between the fall of the Roman Empire and our modern day empire of debt, decay and decline. I’ll address our expansive level of bread and circuses and how defects in our human nature lead to people willingly sacrificing their liberty for promises of safety and security. All empires decline due to the same human failings and ours is no exception. If anything, ours will be far more spectacular and rapid due to our extreme level of hubris, arrogance, willful ignorance and warlike preference for dealing with foreign powers.

It seems there were a few visionary thinkers in the late 1950s who foresaw the dire course our former Republic was setting. Their writings were a prophecy and a warning. There was still time to change course and avoid the pitfalls that led to the Roman Empire collapse. In Brave New World Revisited, Aldous Huxley warned against allowing a few amoral men using propaganda, scientific advancements, technology, brainwashing, and economics to control and manipulate a willfully ignorant populace into a dystopian dictatorship. The Soviet and Chinese dictatorships of the late 1950s are long gone, but Huxley foresaw how modern propaganda techniques would be used by the state to drown the masses in a sea of triviality, irrelevance, and consumerism.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

ClubOrlov: Peak Empire, Take Two

ClubOrlov: Peak Empire, Take Two.

Based on the lessons of history, all empires collapse eventually; thus, the probability that the US empire will collapse can be set at 100% with a great deal of confidence. The question is, When? (Everyone keeps asking that annoying question.) Of course, all you have to do is leave the US, go some place that isn’t plugged into the US economy in non-optional ways, and you won’t have to worry about this question too much. Some people have made guesses but, as far as I can tell, no one has come up with viable methodology for calculating the date. In order to provide a remedy for this serious shortcoming in collapse theory, I once tried to outline a method for figuring it out in an article titled “Peak Empire,” which was based on Joseph Tainter’s theory of diminishing returns on complexity—or diminishing returns on empire. It’s a perfect problem for differential calculus, and all those microeconomics students who are busy calculating marginal cost vs. marginal revenue, so that they can look for work in the soon-to-be-defunct shale gas industry, might take it up, to put their math talents to better use. In the meantime, here is an update, and a revised estimate.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Archdruid Report: A Pink Slip for the Progress Fairy

The Archdruid Report: A Pink Slip for the Progress Fairy.

If you’ve ever wondered just how powerfully collective thinking grips most members of our species—including, by and large, those who most forcefully insist on the originality of their thinking—I have an experiment to recommend: go out in public and advocate an idea about the future that isn’t part of the conventional wisdom, and see what kind of reaction you field. If your experience is anything like mine, you’ll get some anger, some argument, and some blank stares, but the most telling reaction will come from people who try to force what you’re saying into the Procrustean bed of the conventional wisdom, no matter how thoroughly they have to stretch and chop what you’ve said to make it fit.

 

Now of course the project of this blog is guaranteed to field such reactions, since the ideas explored here don’t just ignore the conventional wisdom, they fling it to the floor and dance on the crumpled remains. When I mention that I expect the decline and fall of industrial civilization to take centuries, accordingly, people take this to mean that I expect a smooth, untroubled descent. When I mention that I expect crisis before this decade is finished, in turn, people take this to mean that I expect industrial civilization to crash into ruin in the next few years. Some people, for that matter, slam back and forth from one of these presuppositions to another, as though they can’t fit the concepts of prolonged decline and imminent crisis into their heads at the same moment.
…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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