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We need more geology in school. Or perhaps ecology. Probably both. If we are to survive, we need to understand who and what we are, and for that we need to understand this world that made us. We are earthly beings. We are small parts of a small planet on an average star in the outer reaches of a galactic backwater somewhere in the vastness of the universe. We are small parts that have not been around for long, nor is there any reason to expect that we will continue for more than a few million years — most of our close cousin species are already extinct, after all. We are small parts that do not live long enough to have much impact. Yes, even all this mess we’ve made of our planet — while naming ourselves “the intelligent species” — will not last long. If there are geologists in the future capable of reading the rocks, they will be hard-pressed to even find the layers that contained humans.

A centimeter layer of rock most often represents thousands of years of deposition, perhaps millions of years when deposited in regions of high topography. (Some thick layers can be laid down in hours though these are more often igneous than sedimentary.) All that we’ve done, from our birth in Africa to our global ending, will likely comprise a layer of stratigraphy that is thinner than your smallest toe. To be sure, that layer will have ludicrously irrational geochemistry, laced as it will be with plastics and concentrated poisons. If there are mass spectrometers in the future (not likely, but humor me), geologists will spend careers trying to understand how this particularly toxic time period came about. They may invoke extraterrestrial impacts — because any thinking being will find the true story of our abiotic idiocy hard to accept.

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

Your life and the economy depend on biodiversity

Your life and the economy depend on biodiversity

Preface. We are trained in school, newspapers, and TV to view the world politically and economically. Not ecologically. Or with energy awareness, which those of us following limits to growth, peak oil, and peak everything else call energy blindness.

The World Economic Forum article below is an excellent summary of why biodiversity is so important, even more so than climate change, which will soon stop increasing because oil production peaked in 2008 (IEA 2018 p 45) or 2018 (EIA 2020).  And this is our one hope to stop destroying biodiversity as well. Now oil burning ships can go to the end of the earth to get the last schools of fish, diesel logging and road trucks destroy rain forests, and oil-based pesticides destroy soil ecosystems and pollute land, air, and water.

***

Quinney M (2020) 5 Reasons Why Biodiversity Matters – to Human Health, the Economy and Your Wellbeing. World economic forum.

Biodiversity is critically important – to your health, to your safety and, probably, to your business or livelihood.

But biodiversity – the diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems – is declining globally, faster than at any other time in human history. The world’s 7.6 billion people represent just 0.01% of all living things by weight, but humanity has caused the loss of 83% of all wild mammals and half of all plants. (Biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse is one of the top five risks in the World Economic Forum’s 2020 Global Risks Report, too.)

In celebration of the International Day for Biological Diversity, we break down the five ways in which biodiversity supports our economies and enhances our wellbeing – and has the potential to do even more.

1. Biodiversity Ensures Health and Food Security.

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

E.O. Wilson’s lifelong passion for ants helped him teach humans about how to live sustainably with nature

E.O. Wilson’s lifelong passion for ants helped him teach humans about how to live sustainably with nature

E. O. Wilson was an extraordinary scholar in every sense of the word. Back in the 1980s, Milton Stetson, the chair of the biology department at the University of Delaware, told me that a scientist who makes a single seminal contribution to his or her field has been a success. By the time I met Edward O. Wilson in 1982, he had already made at least five such contributions to science.

Wilson, who died Dec. 26, 2021 at the age of 92, discovered the chemical means by which ants communicate. He worked out the importance of habitat size and position within the landscape in sustaining animal populations. And he was the first to understand the evolutionary basis of both animal and human societies.

Each of his seminal contributions fundamentally changed the way scientists approached these disciplines, and explained why E.O. – as he was fondly known – was an academic god for many young scientists like me. This astonishing record of achievement may have been due to his phenomenal ability to piece together new ideas using information garnered from disparate fields of study.

Big insights from small subjects

In 1982 I cautiously sat down next to the great man during a break at a small conference on social insects. He turned, extended his hand and said, “Hi, I’m Ed Wilson. I don’t believe we’ve met.” Then we talked until it was time to get back to business.

Three hours later I approached him again, this time without trepidation because surely now we were the best of friends. He turned, extended his hand, and said “Hi, I’m Ed Wilson. I don’t believe we’ve met.”

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

Against Doomsday Scenarios: What Is to Be Done Now?

Against Doomsday Scenarios: What Is to Be Done Now?

Fist with windmill

John Bellamy Foster is the editor of Monthly Review and a professor of sociology at the University of Oregon. John Molyneux edits the Irish Marxist Review, is a member of People Before Profit, is coordinator of the Global Ecosocialist Network, and has written widely on Marxism and ecosocialism. Owen McCormack is a longstanding socialist activist. He is a bus driver who has also worked as a parliamentary researcher for People Before Profit, with a special focus on ecology.

This interview took place in early October and first appeared in the November 2021 issue of the Irish Marxist Review under the title “The Planetary Emergency: What Is to Be Done Now?” It has been adapted for publication here.

John Molyneux and Owen McCormack: Given the extreme summer weather and the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, just how bad are things now? What do you believe the time scale is for catastrophe and what do you think that catastrophe will look like? Are things worse than the IPCC report claims? Some, including Michael Mann, have warned against “doomsday scenarios” that might deter people from acting. In your view, are doomsday scenarios the truth that needs to be told?

John Bellamy Foster: We should of course avoid promoting “doomsday scenarios” in the sense of offering a fatalistic worldview. In fact, the environmental movement in general and ecosocialism in particular are all about combating the current trend toward ecological destruction. As UN general secretary António Guterres recently declared with respect to climate change, it is now “code red for humanity.” This is not a doomsday forecast but a call to action.

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

Ecological Economics and the Threat of Constant Growth

 

Book review by AJ: Our One and Only Spaceship: Denial, Delusion and the Population Crisis by Eric Pianka & Laurie Vitt (2019)

Book review by AJ: Our One and Only Spaceship: Denial, Delusion and the Population Crisis by Eric Pianka & Laurie Vitt (2019)

Thanks to AJ for contributing this book review.

https://oneandonlyspaceship.com/

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/our-one-and-only-spaceship-eric-pianka/1133496721?ean=9781733030533

Publisher’s Summary

Ecologists Eric R. Pianka (University of Texas) and Laurie J. Vitt (University of Oklahoma) provide a scientific summary of the overpopulation crisis facing humanity and itemize its many consequences, including climate change (global warming), conservation biology, economic systems, energy and resource shortages, human instincts, immigration conflicts, politics, pollution, poverty, technological problems, and solutions needed. Their underlying thesis is that denial and delusion work synergistically to undermine our ability to confront these serious issues, and unless we undertake proactive measures now, overpopulation and its impact on resource competition and climate change will ultimately lead to the collapse of civilization.

Authors’ Overview

In Road to Survival 70 years ago, William Vogt tried to call attention to the human overpopulation crisis, but failed. Paul Ehrlich raised this issue again 20 years later but was also widely ignored. We wish to re-open this long overdue and much needed discussion about population, a toxic topic that politicians globally avoid. We have written a book “Our One and Only Spaceship:Denial, Delusion and the Population Crisis.” We are two well-known ecologists Eric R. Pianka (University of Texas) and Laurie J. Vitt (University of Oklahoma).

Our book is based on a great deal of research that we have conducted into the topic and on a course that Pianka taught. http://www.zo.utexas.edu/courses/THOC/

We have edited and written books together, both scientific and semi-popular. Using fact-based analyses, we make the case that human population size and growth is the greatest threat to human survival, and that most if not every major global problem (including spread of AIDS and other communicable diseases, wars and other conflicts, climate change and in particular global warming, food water and energy shortages, poverty, political unrest, pollution, extinctions, etc.) are all direct results of overpopulation.

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

It’s The Media’s Job To Normalize War: Notes From The Edge Of The Narrative Matrix

It’s The Media’s Job To Normalize War: Notes From The Edge Of The Narrative Matrix

Exactly zero percent of the world’s worst criminals are in prison. Imperialists. War profiteers. Ecocide profiteers. The very worst of thieves are financial elites. The system isn’t designed to protect us from society’s worst, it’s designed to protect society’s worst from us.

I don’t write much about the specific individuals who drive the oligarchic empire because individuals are not the problem, the system is. Right-wing conspiracy analysts prefer to focus on specific corrupt elites because they like to think if you just got rid of them, capitalism would work fine. And it just wouldn’t. If you rounded up and executed all the sociopathic ruling elites today but left our current systems intact they’d just be replaced tomorrow. A competition-based model where war, corruption, oppression and exploitation remain profitable guarantees this.

A lot of right-wing conspiracy analysis today ultimately boils down to “These bastards are ruining the capitalism!” But capitalism is already ruined, and ruinous. As long as it’s profitable to destroy each other and our ecosystem, the ruin will continue. That’s the real problem. Making it about individuals feeds into the false impression that the individuals are the problem, and absolves us of our collective responsibility to move out of our competition-based model to one in which we collaborate with each other and our ecosystem to create a healthy world.

As long as we have systems in which it’s advantageous to be sociopathic enough to do whatever it takes to get ahead, we will find ourselves ruled by sociopaths. The names and faces on those sociopaths are ultimately irrelevant. They’re a symptom of the underlying disease.

It’s the mass media’s job to normalize war and abnormalize peace. It’s our job to do the exact opposite.

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

Book review of “Bright Green Lies”

Book review of “Bright Green Lies”

This is a book review of “Bright Green Lies. How the Environmental Movement Lost its Way and What We can Do About It” by Derrick Jensen, Lierre Keith, and Max Wilbert.

This is a timely book.  The Biden administration is alarmed by how China controls up to 90% of rare earth and other essential minerals we’ll need for bright green power and anything else electronic. Analysts are predicting that the Biden infrastructure plan will include mines for lithium (such as the open-pit lithium mine at Thacker Pass, Nevada), a new copper mine in Arizona on land the San Carlos Apache Tribe considers sacred and more destruction of U.S. land, rivers, and aquifers.

This book covers the amazing amount of damage bright green power will do to the climate, biodiversity, and ecology, but above all by mining.  If you are trying to lose weight, read this book, you will lose your appetite, I guarantee you!

And why destroy our country to mine metals to compete with China? In my book “Life After Fossil Fuels”, I write “Let China monopolize the second most polluting industry on earth. Mining spews out acid rain, wastewater, and heavy metals onto land, water, and air. One fifth of China’s arable land is polluted from mining and industry.  Mining the materials needed for renewable energy potentially affects 50 million square kilometers, 37% of Earth’s land (minus Antarctica), with a third of this land overlapping key biodiversity areas, wilderness, or protected areas. If mined, that would drive biodiversity loss, harm (rain) forests, and poison ecosystems.  Renewable energy is anything but clean and green. And quite a Pyrrhic victory for China!”

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

alice friedemann, bright green lies, renewable energy, clean energy, misinformation, lies, propaganda, ecology,

David Schindler, the Scientific Giant Who Defended Fresh Water

David Schindler, the Scientific Giant Who Defended Fresh Water

Among the world’s greatest ecologists, his boreal research has touched all of our lives.

The first time I met David Schindler 30 years ago, he occupied an office the size of a closet on the eighth floor of the zoology building at the University of Alberta.

Piles of scientific papers erupted about the room like academic volcanoes. So much paper obliterated a desk that Schindler perched his computer on a TV tray. He didn’t like cities, and drove to work every day from Wildwood, Alta., 100 kilometres west of Edmonton. There he and his wife Suzanne Bayley were correctly known as “dog people.” They owned 85 sled dogs.

But that’s not what dumbfounded me. Schindler just didn’t look or behave like a university professor. People commonly mistook the lake ecologist for a rig worker or a farmer. The short muscular man could lift a car, ride a 10-dog sled team over 5,000 kilometres of terrain every winter, wrestle a group of men down a stairway (yes, he did that at Oxford University), hunt a moose and happily down a bottle of whiskey with no noticeable effects.

And then there was the peerless, cutting-edge science. By the age of 50, Schindler was one of the world’s top freshwater ecologists. Politicians and bureaucrats feared him because he wielded scientific evidence the way a Samurai swung a sword. His groundbreaking research on phosphates, acid rain, climate change, UV radiation and transboundary pollutants had rattled governments in North America and Europe and driven important policy changes around the world.

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

Why the Hummingbird is the Most Dangerous Animal in the World

Why the Hummingbird is the Most Dangerous Animal in the World

This is a revised translation of a post that I published in Italian a couple of years ago. The concept that the Hummingbird is NOT a good example of how to deal with the problems we have is also explained in some detail in my book “Before the Collapse” (2019),

If you can understand French, do watch this clip that tells not only the story of the virtuous hummingbird, but how it ends. The conclusion is “if you think with a hummingbird brain, you end up screwed”. (h/t Igor Giussani). (In French, hummingbird is “colibri”)

Have you ever heard the story of the hummingbird and the fire? It goes like this: there is a gigantic fire raging in the forest. All the animals run for their lives, except for a hummingbird that heads towards the flames with some water in its beak. The lion sees the hummingbird and asks, “Little bird, what do you think you are doing with that drop of water?” And the hummingbird replies, “I am doing my part”.

If you studied philosophy in high school, you may think that the hummingbird is a follower of Immanuel Kant and of his categorical imperative principle. Or, maybe, the hummingbird is a stoic philosopher who thinks that his own personal virtue is more important than anything else.

Apart from philosophy, the moral of the story is often interpreted in an ecological key. That is, everyone should engage individually in good practices for the sake of the environment. Things like turning off the light before leaving the house, turning off the tap while brushing one’s teeth, take short showers to save water, ride a bicycle instead of a car, separate waste with attention, and the like…

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

 

un-Denial Manifesto: Energy and Denial

un-Denial Manifesto: Energy and Denial

Winners and Losers

Six years ago this essay launched and defined un-Denial.com. I’m featuring it on the home page to celebrate 500 posts.

This is the story of the two most important things that enabled the success and possible demise of humans: energy and denial.

Simple single cell (prokaryotic) life emerges as a gradual and predictable transition from geochemistry to biochemistry, in the presence of rock, water, CO2, and energy, all of which are found within alkaline hydrothermal vents on geologically active planets, of which there are 40 billion in our galaxy alone, and probably a similar number in each of the other 100 billion galaxies.

Simple life like bacteria and archaea is therefore probably common throughout the universe. Strong evidence for this is that prokaryotes appeared 4 billion years ago, as soon as the earth cooled down enough to support life, and never once winked out despite many calamities throughout geologic history.

LUCA (the Last Universal Common Ancestor), and all life that followed, is chemiosmotic meaning that it powers itself with an unintuitive mechanism that pumps protons across a membrane. This strange proton pump makes sense in the light of its hydrothermal vent origins. For a sense of the scale of life’s energy, consider that the human body pumps a staggering 10**21 protons per second of life.

The transition to, and existence of, complex multicellular life, like plants and animals, is much less predictable and certain. All of the complex life on earth has a common eukaryote ancestor, and it appears this ancestor emerged only once on Earth about 2 billion years ago. This is a vital but rarely acknowledged singularity in biology.

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

 

Is Society Collapsing?

Is Society Collapsing?

Abandoned passenger train car, Astoria, Oregon. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Twenty-five years ago, when the high-tech Second Industrial Revolution had just begun, I made a bet with an editor from Wired magazine that global society led by the United States would collapse in the year 2020 from a confluence of causes created by modern technology out of control.

It would be, I said, a mix of ecological disasters including earth overheating and polar ice melting, political disintegration including failed states worldwide and uprisings in major cities, and economic chaos including insurmountable debt and a stock-market crash and depression. He said, “We won’t even be close,” and slapped down a $1,000 check on my desk. Though a tidy sum in those days, I matched it and we settled on a mutual editor friend as the arbiter, to make the call when the time came.

That time, the end of the year 2020, has now indeed come. Who wins?

As to ecological disaster, the evidence is ample even though the response to it has been negligible. The ten hottest years on earth have been between 2005 and 2020, with 2019 the hottest ever recorded and 2020 very close. That means ice melting at a record rate, with significant loss at glaciers around the world, in Greenland, and at the poles, with ice going three times as fast in the last three years in the Antarctic as just ten years ago and the Arctic in what a scientist at the Polar Ocean Physics Group at Cambridge University has called a “death spiral.” The U.N. climate panel, which puts the blame for global warming on “greenhouse gasses,” says these must cease by 2030, a goal that not a single major country is capable of meeting.

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

Study warns US farmland is now 48 TIMES more TOXIC to insects: Are neonicotinoids to blame for the impending “insect apocalypse?”

Image: Study warns US farmland is now 48 TIMES more TOXIC to insects: Are neonicotinoids to blame for the impending “insect apocalypse?”

(Natural News) Researchers have determined that the nation’s farmland is now 48 times more toxic to insects than it was just 25 years ago, and much of this rise in toxicity is being blamed on the widespread use of a dangerous category of pesticides known as neonicotinoids.

The study, which was published in the PLOS ONE journal, provided a thorough assessment of the use of pesticides in America and was the first study to determine just how dangerous our fields have grown for insects in recent years. The role of pesticides was dramatic; the scientists found that neonicotinoids were responsible for a remarkable 92 percent of the rise in toxicity.

Part of the problem is that neonicotinoids create a cumulative toxic burden because they are far more persistent within the environment than other types of commonly used insecticides, which is why the burden today is so much higher than it was a quarter century ago and is likely to grow even higher.

Study co-author Kendra Klein, Ph.D., said: “It is alarming that U.S. agriculture has become so much more toxic to insect life in the past two decades. We need to phase out neonicotinoid pesticides to protect bees and other insects that are critical to biodiversity and the farms that feed us.”

She also called for a shift from our food system’s dependence on dangerous pesticides toward organic methods of farming that work in harmony with nature instead of destroying it.

Will there be any insects left on our planet in the decades to come?

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

What Are Your ‘Ecological Virtues?’

What Are Your ‘Ecological Virtues?’

For example, are you performing ‘just acts,’ or just performing? A new book of essays invites readers to reflect.

As the tsunami of horrible news goes on and on, a few especially large icebergs managed to bob to the surface this week. One in particular proved hard to ignore, as a United Nations report revealed not one single global target has been met in terms of contending with the destruction of the natural world.

In the face of such grim information, what can one book offer?

A Book of Ecological Virtues: Living Well in the Anthropocene, published by the University of Regina Press and edited by Heesoon Bai, David Chang and Charles Scott, is a collection of essays. Most are from an academic perspective, and if you can battle your way past words like ontogeny and eudaimonia there are ideas and approaches to making one’s way in an insanely complex world.

It starts with the question: “What does living well look like in the Anthropocene?”

To answer, a variety of academics, poets and activists ponder how to cultivate a set of “eco-virtues,” described as, “a new set of values by which to live, if there is to be hope for us and other species to continue.”

So, what does that mean, exactly? And how do get from where we are to some new, different (better) place?

We human chatterboxes tend to fill the air, as well as the page, with all manner of wordy explanations, methodologies and plans. But sometimes simply shutting up is the answer.

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

Abandon All Hope: Moving Toward an Existentialist Environmentalism

Abandon All Hope: Moving Toward an Existentialist Environmentalism 

As the Earth’s ecological systems upon which we depend accelerate in their slouch towards Bethlehem, our society faces an existential crisis.  The effects of climate change are far direr than we initially expected.  Global atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations have risen to 415 ppm for the first time in over three million years.  The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C describes that we face an increase in global average temperatures of 1.5 degrees C as soon as 2040. Furthermore, the two degrees of warming that scientists widely argue is the final major threshold before permanent, large-scale climatic shifts leading to ecological collapse, is no longer some far-off possibility or hyperbolic fear-mongering, but an imminent reality.  The future we face in this new Earth is marked ever more frequent and intense fire and flooding, famine and disease, droughts and storms.

Similarly, compounded by decreasing habitat availability from deforestation, overfishing, and resource overuse, climatic shifts are already being accompanied by staggering and consistent losses in biodiversity.  Published last month, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services’ Global Assessment Report concluded that the second-fastest mass extinction event in planetary history is underway; the current rate of extinction is 100 to 1000 times greater than historical background rates.  Over one million species are at risk of extinction within the next few decades.

As they perceive the horsemen beginning to saddle up their mounts, many of my friends and colleagues in the environmental community have succumbed to anxiety, if not despondency.  It is all too easy to become overwhelmed and unable to make a decision on how to proceed given the enormity of the problem and the lateness of the hour.  Indeed, given their scale, global challenges like climate change and biodiversity loss have been called hyperobjects which humans cannot comprehend despite their pervasive effects that are and will be experienced by everyone in some way.

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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