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Why is Methane Such a Threat?

Why is Methane Such a Threat?

Dale Hollow Dam on the Obey River at Celina, Tennessee
Reservoirs behind dams are responsible for large amounts of methane emissions 
One might ask a similar question such as “Why is carbon dioxide such a threat?” or “Why is nitrous oxide such a threat?” or even “Why is sulfur hexafluoride such a threat?” While I’m pretty sure that everyone reading this knows that these are greenhouse gases and that they are all ramping upwards as climate change progresses, I figured I might as well disclose those facts first. My next disclosure amounts to providing some sources for info regarding the statement underneath the picture above here, and here, and here, and here.

I have written extensively about methane in many of my articles (to see which ones, look for the keyword “methane” on the labels for each article) simply because of the existential risks it poses and also how likely it is to become a serious threat and not just a potential one. One article in particular highlights the issue of methane. While other parts of stories about methane are buried in different articles of mine, I decided to bring the various parts into a main one with methane in the actual title to make more of an impact with regard to this specific predicament. Methane emissions continue gaining pace despite more and more efforts to stem emissions from anthropogenic sources such as fossil fuel infrastructure, and I don’t expect these emissions to ever go down again in our lifetimes.

In order to gain a better appreciation of why I say that (that I don’t expect these emissions to ever go down again in our lifetimes), please visit the Methane Links page to view lots of peer-reviewed literature on the subject or go here for the latest updates.

…click on the above link to read the rest…

The Illusion of Control

The Illusion of Control

Dale Hollow Reservoir, Tennessee

How often do you think of schizophrenia? Are you aware that most of Western society suffers from collective schizophrenia? I’ve mentioned wetiko in this space often, because of the implications it has with modern civilization. For those unfamiliar with wetiko, please see this article. Most people completely ignore the unsustainability of civilization, brought about by denial of reality. It is this collective denial which also allows us to completely ignore the real world that we live in; especially the part which actually sustains us – the flora and fauna which provide the wonderful biodiversity that promulgates the ecosystem services we require to survive – our habitat. Without said habitat, we cannot continue as a species.

These words written by Michael Asher have never been more true, quote:

What is schizophrenia? In colloquial use we take it to mean ‘split personality’, but in fact it’s a disorder of the brain’s right hemisphere – the part that sees the world as a web of connections. A serious problem with the right hemisphere leaves people stranded, dependent on the left hemisphere, which sees the world as a disjointed and meaningless collection of separate material objects.

If that condition doesn’t ring a bell, it should. Since the 17th century, when the philosopher Descartes declared that mind was separate from matter, we have tended to see the world almost exclusively from a left hemisphere perspective. Schizophrenia, as it happens, is not recorded before the industrial era.
This hasn’t occurred by chance – it’s the way we are conditioned by family, school, media, arts, and so on. In fact, we’ve developed a whole philosophy based on the left hemisphere POV – it’s called materialism.

…click on the above link to read the rest…

What Qualities Do the Predicaments We Face Possess?

What Qualities Do the Predicaments We Face Possess?

The view from Sunset Rock near Sparta, Tennessee

I’d like to address something which has been on my mind quite a bit recently. How we view things or how we judge things has a lot to do with how we see life (our worldview) and the circumstances surrounding it. I was having a conversation with my mom and she asked me something rather interesting. She wanted to know if I thought that the topics I spend so much time dealing with causes me to feel down “because they are so negative.” I feel compelled to dive into this with zeal because I think that there are probably MANY of us who likewise see things from a different angle than society in general.

First things first; I don’t necessarily see collapse, climate change, energy and resource decline, and/or extinction as being bad or negative. They certainly have some bad qualities and negative effects. I cannot deny the grief I have felt as a result of learning that ecological overshoot has many serious symptom predicaments which I learned about mostly BEFORE I learned about overshoot itself. However, as part of the learning process, I was required to view the situation in geologic timescales and from nature’s perspective – and these change the viewpoint or perspective from an anthropocentric, human-focused worldview to a more natural biospheric-based perspective. Nature doesn’t care about our judgements or opinions. So, while I cannot deny the grief I have experienced, I also cannot label all these predicaments as being “bad” either. This is simply nature’s way of evolution. Only humans give such hubristic judgements about these predicaments, based on our perception of loss…

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Collapse and The Exponential Function

Collapse and The Exponential Function

This is the Guard Shack at the Washoe Smelter of the Anaconda Copper Mining Company as it looks today (this picture taken in 2020). More info can be found at the Wikipedia page and the park’s page.

Most everyone reading these articles probably has a good idea of what collapse is. For anyone unfamiliar with it, reading Ugo Bardi’s blog, The Seneca Effect, will definitely provide insight into what the Seneca Cliff is and many different aspects of civilizational collapse. For those unfamiliar with the exponential function, the late Albert Bartlett gave a fantastic presentation of Arithmetic, Population, and Energy.

Many different examples of collapse can be seen in society today – the most visible ones are the inflation of prices of products and services caused by energy and resource decline, mass migrations, downfall of governments, loss of socioeconomic complexity, and the rise of violence (the sheer number of mass shootings here in the U.S. is a very conspicuous sign – more on this later). The hollowing out of the middle class is a symptom of energy decline, another visible sign of collapse.

More can be seen in this article from Sharon Astyk, which accurately points to the difference between problems and predicaments, quote:

Okay, did Sharon just write two FREAKING essays of “we’re fucked” and left us there with no solutions? Hey, that’s not fair, where’s the zero stars button?

In a sense, yes, that’s what I did. The old distinction between a problem (which can be solved) and a predicament (which must be endured and mitigated, but is fundamentally insoluble) applies here.

If you want me to pull a simple solution that will allow people to stop suffering and dying out of my bag of magic beans, and give you back the life you had in 2019 or 2015, I am doomed to disappoint you profoundly.
…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…


Our Impending Impasse and Sid Smith’s New Series

Our Impending Impasse and Sid Smith’s New Series

Keowee Toxaway State Park, South Carolina

I have a backlog of articles I have started but haven’t yet finished, so I’m starting with this one which has to do with our impending impasse. I think William Catton, Jr. worded that very well. It actually comes from his book, Bottleneck: Humanity’s Impending Impasse, in which a review is available hereFor those unfamiliar with Catton, he wrote (among other books), Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change, and along with other pioneering giants such as Paul Ehrlich (The Population Bomb) and Dennis and Donella Meadows (The Limits to Growth), he brought awareness to the simple fact that society was breaching planetary limits and beginning to reach tipping points in planetary systems.

Nowadays, it seems that everyone is getting in on some predicament; whether it is climate change, population growth, energy and resource decline (peak oil), pollution loading, or many others, these are all symptom predicaments of ecological overshoot, the master predicament. While I think it is great to have goals and to work towards those goals, I also think it is important to have goals that are not incongruent to what one is working towards. In other words, if one is working towards solving a particular issue, making the issue worse instead of better is senseless. Yet most people have little if any awareness that their favorite goal when it comes to the environment (often climate change) is getting further and further away rather than closer. As long as ecological overshoot is allowed to continue increasing, ANY environmental goal along with most other goals will continue fading into the distance.

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

Our Impending Impasse and Sid Smith’s New Series

Our Impending Impasse and Sid Smith’s New Series

Keowee Toxaway State Park, South Carolina
I have a backlog of articles I have started but haven’t yet finished, so I’m starting with this one which has to do with our impending impasse. I think William Catton, Jr. worded that very well. It actually comes from his book, Bottleneck: Humanity’s Impending Impasse, in which a review is available hereFor those unfamiliar with Catton, he wrote (among other books), Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change, and along with other pioneering giants such as Paul Ehrlich (The Population Bomb) and Dennis and Donella Meadows (The Limits to Growth), he brought awareness to the simple fact that society was breaching planetary limits and beginning to reach tipping points in planetary systems. 

Nowadays, it seems that everyone is getting in on some predicament; whether it is climate change, population growth, energy and resource decline (peak oil), pollution loading, or many others, these are all symptom predicaments of ecological overshoot, the master predicament. While I think it is great to have goals and to work towards those goals, I also think it is important to have goals that are not incongruent to what one is working towards. In other words, if one is working towards solving a particular issue, making the issue worse instead of better is senseless. Yet most people have little if any awareness that their favorite goal when it comes to the environment (often climate change) is getting further and further away rather than closer. As long as ecological overshoot is allowed to continue increasing, ANY environmental goal along with most other goals will continue fading into the distance.

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

Desert Apocalypse: What Are We Losing?

Desert Apocalypse: What Are We Losing?

White Sands National Park in New Mexico, a very unique gypsum sand desert

How much thought have you given to the deserts globally? I have a special love for deserts because of the fact that they are so different from the landscape I grew up in. Many people tend to think of deserts as “sand-filled wastelands” because they don’t support the same types of plant species as wetter places. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. There are actually quite a few species which call the desert home, more in some deserts than others. Because I live in the United States and have actually visited the deserts in the southwestern and western US, and because these lands are threatened with development for false “solutions” which actually propel us in the wrong direction, I decided to write this article based on what we stand to lose as a result of these actions. Several groups are actively involved in attempting to halt development in these deserts, a rather positive thing indeed. More people are needed to protest these developments, as said developments don’t actually solve anything and do threaten far more than the species in the desert – they also threaten US – human beings.

As I pointed out a couple months ago in my article about civilization, so long as a particular goal is to sustain that which can not be sustained, society is doing nothing more than performing an exercise in futility. Society is simply denying reality and buying into false beliefs.

It is extremely important for everyone to understand limits, and a new short video from Nate Hagens nails it. Then there’s this which explains these details in a much shorter span than most of my articles, although I don’t agree with their take that “it’s too late to do anything” in this bullet point, quote:

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

 

What Is Oil and Why Is It So Special?

What Is Oil and Why Is It So Special?

I have written in here several times that no other form of energy can match fossil hydrocarbons in their energy density except for uranium, but uranium requires a nuclear reactor to be utilized; something that cannot be carried by hand (like a container of gasoline can). Oil is especially important not only because of its density, but also because of its portability and versatility. No other form of energy can be transported and utilized as easily as oil. Most of us are familiar with oil in the form of gasoline or diesel, but perhaps also in kerosene or fuel oil as well. Natural gas is actually higher in density, but requires slightly different storage and engines. This portability and versatility explains why so many power tools such as lawn mowers, chainsaws, spin trimmers, lawn edgers, and more are powered by gasoline. The same advantages are also why most cars, trucks, tractors, agricultural machines, mining equipment, and roadbuilding equipment all use gasoline or diesel as their source for energy (although there ARE quite a few commercial trucks and forklifts which use natural gas or propane).

In this article and podcast, two energy experts, Nate Hagens and Art Berman, answer these questions and more regarding oil:

  • How is oil formed?
  • How did we become dependent on fossil fuels?
  • How much human labor is equal to the amount of energy in one barrel of oil?
  • Where do the majority of carbon emissions come from, and what role can we humans play in helping us reduce emissions?
  • How much oil is left and what are future prospects for oil production and the economy?
For those who want to see the slideshow while they listen, here it is.
…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

How Bad is Pollution Loading?

How Bad is Pollution Loading?

Many people tend to forget about pollution loading as a predicament. After all, the primary focus often has more to do with more immediate concerns such as climate change, energy and resource decline (the REAL reason behind supply chain woes), disease, and other issues seen as being more important. However, when one takes into consideration how pollution loading affects the ability of animals to reproduce and the diseases they will suffer, one begins to see a more clear threat. Up until just recently, pollution loading (labeled Novel Entities on the nine-category planetary boundary scale) was not actually one of the boundaries which had been breached as it remained unquantified, but this month that changed. This leaves two unquantified sections; one part of Biosphere Integrity and Atmospheric Aerosol LoadingThis article goes into the details and this study is what it is based upon.

As one can clearly see from the Pollution Loading file (link above in first sentence of article), we’ve been in dangerous territory for a considerably long time. Science has finally caught up to the reality.

There are some people who think that as energy and resource decline continues, pollution loading will be reduced. They might be correct – eventually – although this is debatable. The lag effect means that pollution loading (like climate change and many other predicaments caused by ecological overshoot such as population growth) will not be reduced for quite some time after manufacturing and/or economic growth begins to seriously be reduced. Wood burning is actually more polluting than burning coal in many respects, and wildfires and burning homes and other buildings is set to increase. As fewer people will be able to afford fossil fuels, they will resort to burning whatever is available for warmth and cooking and for making water potable by boiling…

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

Why Not Admit Our Energy Addiction?

Why Not Admit Our Energy Addiction?

Bridge over Cataloochee Creek on the Old Cataloochee Turnpike; near Cataloochee Valley, North Carolina

There are apparently many people who misunderstand my articles, why I write them, and what it all means at the end of the day. I read scientific articles – LOTS of them, and I read them almost every day (scroll down to see the “FILES” here). I’m curious, and I am constantly searching for answers to a rather simple question; “Yeah, but WHY?”

Occasionally I misunderstand something or the science changes, and I make sure I correct myself. More often than not, the general theme remains unchanged. Such is the way of ecological overshoot. It cares not one bit what we think of it. It does not respond to our beliefs. It isn’t interested in our desires, opinions, or plans we have for the future. Is “it” ecological overshoot, nature, or the laws of physics? Does it really matter, considering all three are equally oblivious and disregarding of our emotions?

So, once again, my curiosity leads me to wonder why so many people fail to see the science as it really is rather than the way they want it to be. How can so many people ignore our addiction to energy (mostly in the form of fossil hydrocarbons) and that we (humans, collectively) are a superorganism (Nate Hagens’ description) which nobody is in control of? Given those circumstances, why is it that so many people think that there is some sort of answer or solution for the overarching predicament of ecological overshoot? When I tell people that a predicament has an outcome and not an answer or solution, what part of that don’t they comprehend?

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

Spot The Illusions We Tell Ourselves

Spot The Illusions We Tell Ourselves

Whitewater Falls, North Carolina

Recently there have been a rather large number of occurrences which shine a light on some positive progress being made on ecological overshoot. Unfortunately, many outlets and even scientists have made claims about so-called “solutions” which are anything but, and generally they’re simply not true.

One of the loudest occurrences has been the release of Don’t Look Up on Netflix, which has elicited lots of reviews and is reverberating far and wide within the climate change community. I say “climate change” community because even many longtime climate followers are still in the dark about ecological overshoot, the predicament CAUSING climate change. One review in particular is extremely accurate, this one from Tom Murphy. On most articles, I usually try to avoid reading the comments following said articles. However, Tom’s site generally has comments which actually elevate each article because they are often thoughtful rather than the depressing comments after most “regular” articles. This particular snippet of one caught my eye because of the relevance it has with so many comments I see routinely, quote:

When will “we” unite to solve “our” global problems? As much as each of us may wish otherwise, humanity is not a giant family. It is a large mass of clever primates who have evolved to cope with temporary resource surpluses followed inevitably by scarcity. After the feast always comes the killing famine, and we are built to compete in just such a world.

This does not foreclose united action against common threats, but when the chips are down and *somebody* must have less of a limiting resource, we will do everything in our earthly power to ensure that it’s not us.
…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…


False Beliefs and Denial

False Beliefs and Denial

Sam’s Gap at the Tennessee/North Carolina border

I have embarked on quite the journey over the past year. I stepped out of my comfort zone and decided to begin writing this blog. I do enjoy discussing energy and resource decline and climate change, because of the stark implications they present. I’m less comfortable talking about extinction due to the uncertainty of a timeline and the controversy surrounding it. Despite my knowledge in this field, I never feel like I know enough; so I’m always digging for more information. The studies, articles, videos, and other media I have discovered are sometimes difficult to digest. I often have to step back to think about what I am writing and how it will be received for those few who are reading it. I am ever mindful of how I felt upon first discovering where we are as a species and precisely how we continue chopping off the limb we are perched upon. It is quite difficult at times, understanding not only where we are but where we are headed; also comprehending the inertia behind us pushing us into new realms and sending us beyond tipping points. Today’s article combines an eclectic mix of both recent events and stories with new material from Tom Murphy, William Rees, Jeff Masters, Alice Friedemann, and many others. Those of you familiar with my posts will be unfazed; new readers may be horrified.

The way some of my articles are received by a few point to anger and denial. I understand this because I was also there for a while, although I quickly progressed beyond those stages of grief. Despite my knowledge regarding human denial of reality and then the accompanying optimism bias which often typically lead to overshoot, I am still surprised by the sheer scale of this denial..

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

Why is Civilization Unsustainable?

Why is Civilization Unsustainable?

Top picture: Civilization; Pikeville, Kentucky
Bottom picture: Nature; Birch Knob, Virginia

So, what is it about civilization being unsustainable that people do not understand? I often wonder why this is and have come up with the idea that it is mostly cultural programming and indoctrination by industry that technology is good and more of it is better. Perhaps a lack of critical thought by most of society as to what is required for technology to exist and what is required in order for technology to continue to be used is to blame for the reasons as to why people simply most often do not realize that civilization is unsustainable. Another distinct possibility is the power of the denial of reality that humans frequently use when faced with uncomfortable truths which don’t fit into a person’s worldview.

Before I continue, I want to make mention that I was rather surprised by some of the comments on my last article which I published on Wednesday. My first recommendation is to visit the very first article I posted here a year ago and read this part, quote:

We often see people bring out certain ideas that they claim are some sort of “solution” or that “they work” and I want to try to explain why (once again) these ideas are nothing more than ideas and not “solutions” of any sort. One of the things I most would like to get others to see is the bigger picture. Many people focus on reductionist ideas such as non-renewable “renewable” energy, or alternative energy ideas such as hydrogen, or technological ideas; but fail to see how those ideas don’t really change anything and only allow for continued environmental destruction (and consolidate capital in the hands of the elite) instead.

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

Let’s Talk About Agriculture

Let’s Talk About Agriculture

An agricultural barn of the 1800’s located at Falls Mill, Belvidere, Tennessee
Agriculture is a technology (like fire and the wheel) and a system of extracting minerals and nutrients from the soil through photosynthesis. The industrial method of agriculture adds the use of fossil fuels through the Haber-Bosch process for fertilizer, many different chemicals such as herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, and other toxic chemical treatments (including GMO seeds), and of course diesel-powered equipment such as tractors and all the equipment to plow, plant, spray, water, harvest, and transport crops today. The technology of agriculture is what allowed for today’s cities to exist, and it became possible only with the stable climate of the Holocene, which is now disappearing rather quickly. The recent events over the past 6 months in British Columbia, Canada (first the wildfires [especially around Lytton] and now the floods), should be more than enough to convince anyone of this; although plenty of events throughout the rest of the world are also proof.
The one thing which is rarely mentioned about agriculture or the Green Revolution is that it is all entirely unsustainable. Every civilization (which is based upon the bedrock technology of agriculture) which has existed has also collapsed and this current set of living conditions is in the process of collapsing as well, all due to the unsustainable practices upon which civilization is founded. These unsustainable practices eventually lead to overshoot and eventually the landbase surrounding said civilization is unable to support those living upon it. This causes collapse which results in those living there to scatter. Some people may remain in the general vicinity, but a large portion of the population must find new locations for habitat in order to continue to exist.
…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Some Thoughts About COP-26

Some Thoughts About COP-26

Whether you love, hate, or don’t care about Greta, one must admit that she really gets it right in this video. Like most people, she has grown in her knowledge and now no longer sees technological devices as a way out of the predicament of ecological overshoot. Of course, the COP meetings were never really about reducing ecological overshoot; they were truly pretty much about politics and BAU (Business As Usual) just like she says. It is Greta’s passion that is so awesome.Perhaps it is because she likes to point out illogical thinking and fairy tale stories, the greenwashing of industry to cash in on the public’s general ignorance, and the politicians who have been bought by the corporate overlords that attracts me to her style. Her truth to power is inspiration to those of us who have been watching these meetings unfold throughout the years, initially hoping some real progress might be made while witnessing the lack of any real action, even when agreements ARE actually made. Alas, it reminds me all too well of my younger self who thought that surely once James Hansen reported his findings to the US Congress that America would lead the charge in dealing effectively with climate change. I was in my early 20s at the time, a time of idealism and optimism – you know the story of how we are all going to “change the world” at that point. Even today I can occasionally get naïve about human behavior. So, one can see clearly now the same disappointment I experienced back then with this latest fiasco, what many are now calling COPout26…

…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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