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Category Archives: Environment

The conversation we don’t have but desperately need

By Sean Hurley

We need to have a conversation about economics. Not the prototypical economic conversation; there’s no need to discuss regulation, interest, inflation, derivatives, or even the type of money we use. Our conversation should instead address the foundation of our modern economic system. Examine our economy from a broad perspective, without getting bogged down in the mire of levers and mechanisms which mask the fundamental simplicity of the system. It’s time we looked at the impacts of earning a living.

To start, we should have a basic understanding of how as a species we have arrived where we are from an economic perspective.

Social Development

As homo sapiens, we’ve existed on this planet for over two hundred thousand years.[1] For the vast majority of the human record, our species lived nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyles with an egalitarian economy. That is to say we shared, the needs of the community were met above and beyond the needs of the individual. Hoarding and restricting access to food made no sense when being on the move to find food was a primary function of one’s culture.

We have a strong degree of certainty about this way of life, based on archaeological discoveries and findings made by anthropologists who studied the behaviours of uncontacted tribes. This way of life went fundamentally unchanged until between ten and two thousand BCE (before common era), or between twelve and four thousand years ago.[2] During this eight thousand year period, our species went through the first agricultural revolution, experiencing dramatic change in our social and economic history. We learned to farm.

With farming came job specialisation, a surplus of goods, redistribution of those goods, private property, and more defined rules or social expectations and cultural norms. The ability to remain in one place for longer periods of time allowed for rudimentary housing, the establishment of villages, then towns, and finally cities. As a necessary adaptation to managing larger groups of people living in close proximity, social expectations moved away from being implicit (this is how we behave it is how we have always behaved), to becoming more regimented. These changes gave rise to trade, facilitated by barter, tokens such as shells, precious metals, and culminating in modern money.

While this profound change in human society enabled unforeseen and fantastic advances for our species, taking us from planet bound nomads to space travel, it also allowed for poverty and inequality as egalitarianism gave way to modern capitalism.

Perspective

It’s important we take a step back to get a broad perspective look at what we’re doing as a species from the confines of our modern economic system. We work, engage in a form of employment, so we can be paid a financial sum for our time and in turn, use those funds to pay to live. This is the fundamental premise of our system, work to pay to live.

For those with relative access, this design promotes participation in the economy driving innovation and social progress. It’s difficult to argue that hasn’t happened. Indeed, since the industrial revolution of the late 18th and early 19th centuries there have been vast social and technological advances, thanks in part to the incentivised participation in the economy. Yet, there are also a plethora of social and environmental pathogens, many being an outgrowth of behavioural propensities directly resulting from our competition based economic model, rising to overshadow the benefits of capitalism in human society.

The questions we need to ask ourselves and each other in 2018 are, have our advances reached a point which leaves the detrimental outcomes outweighing the positive? And, are the negative externalities of working to pay to live eclipsing the benefits of the participation incentive? Where are we headed as a society if we’re to persist with our current economic model?

As a caveat, it’s important to understand this is not about saying our species should never have learned to farm, or that capitalism was something we should have avoided at all costs. It’s necessary to recognise and acknowledge the social gains made as a result of these historical experiences. What we need to do now, and arguably should have been doing for decades, is consider the social and environmental implications of the system itself as set against the abilities it has afforded.

Challenges

At times, the causes of social and environmental instability we’re experiencing are suggested to stem from “crony capitalism” (the allowance for preferential regulation and other favourable government intervention based on personal relationships[3]) or, our use of inherently inflationary fiat money. This is a truncated view with respect to the mechanics and causality as they relate to the work to pay to live system, which underpins the market economy. The type of money we use to facilitate trade, or whether a market is regulated or free of legal interference, has no bearing on the need for cyclical material consumption. Without repeat customers, an employer cannot retain market share to produce income and pay an employee for producing or providing a product or service.

With the wages we earn through employment dictating our standard of living, the customary competition between the employee seeking higher wages and the employer attempting to cap or drive down wages results. From the employer’s perspective, this is an outgrowth of competing to retain market share, in the provision of products at the lowest cost against other similarly positioned companies. Further cost-cutting measures can result in dirty and dangerous production methods, reductions in workplace safety spending, and offshoring of manufacturing to developing nations where worker rights are near non-existent.

Competition also extends to the national level. Developing nations engage in “the race to the bottom” as they slash environmental regulations and labour laws in an effort to appear more attractive than competing nations to corporations seeking to reduce overheads by offshoring manufacturing. Given such competitive dynamics occurring within the capitalist system, corporations who maximise incentives via regulatory apparatuses are revealed as expressing fundamentally resonant behaviour within this broader context.

Competitive pressure to cut costs is also leading employers to adopt automation technologies as they are proving to increase efficiency, reduce errors and long-term costs. Unlike their human counterparts, machines don’t need breaks, holidays, or sick days. Nor do they require pay increases, join unions, strike, or suffer long-term effects from injury which can attract legal costs. In Australia alone, it’s been suggested that automation could replace forty per cent or five million jobs by 2030.[4]

Extreme disparities in wealth distribution are another outcome of the competitive market system. The nine most affluent people on our planet control more combined wealth than the total held by the poorest four billion.[5] This social inequality is linked to an increase in crime,[6] causing negative mental and physical health outcomes amongst both children and adults[7] and having a detrimental impact on the education of children from poor families.[8] Another concerning reality is the finding that the workplace and finances have been found to be the leading cause of chronic stress in the world today, which is the leading cause of chronic disease, and in turn the leading cause of death.[9] All of this an outgrowth of working to pay to live.

The negative outcomes of economic inequality are in part what led Dr Johan Galtung to express, in 1969, that inequality was a form of structural violence.[10] Dr Galtung described structural violence as social arrangements embedded in the political and/or social landscape which result in injury to people, and that is visited upon those whose social status denies them access to the fruits of scientific and social progress. As we come to terms with the health implications of inequality, the work environment, and finances themselves, it becomes difficult not to see this system as structurally violent. This brings into question the idea that our market economy is based on voluntary trade, for what is our choice in a system which is imbalanced towards deprivation, and is culturally installed as the dominant economic paradigm?

Consumerism

Consumerism occurs in human society today without question. Like sharing in our ancient history, material consumption in modern times has become an implicit facet of our existence, “this is how we behave it is how we have always behaved”, even though it’s categorically untrue outside the temporal spans of our own existence.

Indeed, as recently as the early 20th century we see western cultures were not as fixated on materialism as a way of life. This began to change in the 1940’s, at the conclusion of World War II and with the economy having recovered from depression, jobs were abundant and Americans were ready to spend.[11] By the spring of 1955, when Victor Lebow described the importance of material consumption to the American economy, the United States was well on its way to being a nation of consumers,[12] taking the rest of the world with it.

Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfactions, our ego satisfactions, in consumption. The measure of social status, of social acceptance, of prestige, is now to be found in our consumptive patterns. The very meaning and significance of our lives today expressed in consumptive terms. The greater the pressures upon the individual to conform to safe and accepted social standards, the more does he tend to express his aspirations and his individuality in terms of what he wears, drives, eats – his home, his car, his pattern of food serving, his hobbies.

These commodities and services must be offered to the consumer with a special urgency. We require not only “forced draft” consumption, but “expensive” consumption as well. We need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced, and discarded at an ever-increasing pace.[13]

It’s this rapacious appetite for stuff which has led us as a global society to strip-mine our planet for resources; tearing down forests, cutting away the tops of mountains, and digging holes in the countryside. The extraction and refining of resources has resulted in the pollution of the environment through; the extraction and refining process directly, energy production to drive machinery, shipping of materials and commodities around our planet, and finally, when the created products themselves inevitably become waste. This pollution of the ecosphere is culminating in anthropogenic climate change and ecosystem degradation, threatening the future of life on Earth for our and many other species.[14]

Retrospect

From the simple life of our hunter-gatherer ancestors through to the complexities of our modern economies, the process of refining our social approach has provided our species with prodigious intellectual and technical advances. During this period, particularly since the beginning of the industrial revolution, we have broadened our understanding of the Earth’s natural systems, our own biopsychosocial nature, and the negative impacts of our behaviour. However, with this new-found knowledge, and our unprecedented productive capacity to create abundance, we have not challenged our economic modus operandi.

Failing to do this appears to be leaving us cornered in a progress trap. For all our wondrous understandings we seem to lack the intellectual tenacity to question the antiquated basis of our modern economic system. Even in the face of overwhelming data which describe the deep and troublesome problems with our competitive, and consumption-driven social model, discussion about finding a way to manage society beyond the work to pay to live structure feels taboo.

The next logical step in our economic evolution – with the productive capacity and knowledge we have obtained during this capitalist era, is to transition to a system which better cares for our mental and physical well-being, and which nurtures the environment. For this to happen, we must discuss what an economy looks like devoid of the need to work to pay to live. That is the conversation we don’t have but desperately need.

References
    1. Barras C. Our species may be 150,000 years older than we thought. New Scientist. 2018. Available at: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2133807-our-species-may-be-150000-years-older-than-we-thought/. Accessed June 8, 2018.
    2. Daly R, Lee R. The Cambridge Encyclopedia Of Hunters And Gatherers. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press; 1999.
    3. What is crony capitalism? definition and meaning. BusinessDictionarycom. 2018. Available at: http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/crony-capitalism.html. Accessed June 8, 2018.
    4. Automation, robots and the future of work – RMIT University. Rmiteduau. 2018. Available at: https://www.rmit.edu.au/study-with-us/levels-of-study/postgraduate-study/why-rmit/automation-robots-and-the-future-of-work. Accessed June 8, 2018.
    5. Jacobs S. Just nine of the world’s richest men have more combined wealth than the poorest 4 billion people. The Independent. 2018. Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/richest-billionaires-combined-wealth-jeff-bezos-bill-gates-warren-buffett-mark-zuckerberg-carlos-a8163621.html. Accessed June 8, 2018.
    6. Fajnzylber P, Lederman D, Loayza N. Inequality and Violent Crime. The Journal of Law and Economics. 2002;45(1):1-39. doi:10.1086/338347.
    7. Murali V, Oyebode F. Poverty, social inequality and mental health. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment. 2004;10(3):216-224. doi:10.1192/apt.10.3.216.
    8. Wilkinson R, Pickett K. Spirit Level. London: Penguin Books Ltd; 2011.
    9. Walsh D. “The Workplace Is Killing People and Nobody Cares”. Stanford Graduate School of Business. 2018. Available at: https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/insights/workplace-killing-people-nobody-cares. Accessed June 9, 2018.
    10. Galtung J. Violence, Peace, and Peace Research. Journal of Peace Research. 1969;6(3):167-191. doi:10.1177/002234336900600301.
    11. The Rise of American Consumerism | American Experience | PBS. Pbsorg. 2018. Available at: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/general-article/tupperware-consumer/. Accessed June 9, 2018.
    12. Economy in The 1950’s. Shmoopcom. 2018. Available at: https://www.shmoop.com/1950s/economy.html. Accessed June 9, 2018.
    13. Lebow V. Price Competition in 1955. Journal of Retailing Spring 1955. 1955.
    14. Ceballos G, Ehrlich P, Barnosky A, Garcia A, Pringle R, Palmer T. Accelerated modern human-induced species losses: Entering the sixth mass extinction. Sci Adv. 2015;1(5):e1400253-e1400253. doi:10.1126/sciadv.1400253.

Sean is a contributing editor at Social Rebirth and has been involved in social and environmental activism since 2008. He can be followed @socialrebirth.

 

At what date do you wish to see a dystopian world, or your children or grandchildren dead?

By Keith Antonysen

Lately, when there is discussion of climate change there are two conversations going on; one pushing the need for reliable energy sources, and the other being in relation to climate change. Climate change has to a great extent been subsumed by discussions in relation to energy.

But, the lack of water, breakdown of crops, and sea level rise will lead to the creation of a dystopian world creating refugees by the score. Reticulated water problems have already been experienced in California, Mexico, Brazil, Bolivia etc, a recipe for community breakdown. Lack of water resources have been stated to be a background influence in the Arab Spring. Sea level rise has already been experienced in a number of locations.

It seems like a hysterical title, but it is promoted in all seriousness, people are dying through climate change, a very recent example is 33 deaths in Canada from heat stroke.

Professor James Anderson who alerted the world about the ozone layer has stated … “The chance that there will be any permanent ice left in the Arctic after 2022 is essentially zero,” Anderson said, with 75 to 80 per cent of permanent ice having melted already in the last 35 years.”

He has also stated; “Can we lose 75-80 per cent of permanent ice and recover? The answer is no.”

A number of Australian habitats are breaking down, including:

  • “kelp forests shifting to seaweed turfs following a single marine heatwave in 2011;
  • the destruction of Gondwanan refugia by wildfire ignited by lightning storms in 2016;
  • dieback of floodplain forests along the Murray River following the millennial drought in 2001–2009;
  • large-scale conversion of alpine forest to shrubland due to repeated fires from 2003–2014;
  • community-level boom and bust in the arid zone following extreme rainfall in 2011–2012, and
  • mangrove dieback across a 1,000km stretch of the Gulf of Carpentaria after a weak monsoon in 2015-2016.”

The IPCC is in the process of compiling research for a Report to be published later this year, leaked documentation indicates that the minimal standard set at Paris of a 1.5C above pre-Industrial times is virtually not attainable.

Permafrost is thawing at quite a rate causing the breakdown of infra-structure and public and private buildings. Also, with the breakdown of permafrost greenhouse gases are emitted. Anton Vaks et al studied caves in permafrost areas, in areas where permafrost was intermittent, and non-permafrost areas.

Robertscribbler a week or so ago gave warnings about weather forecasts for extremely hot weather to be experienced in the following days. Scientists have stated that a fingerprint of climate change is the increasing warmth of night time temperatures, Robertscribbler gives a later breakdown of the temperatures on the film he has attached to his article showing how night time temperature has been increasing along with other records. It has been a neutral ENSO period which does not bode well when there is a 50% chance of changing to an El Nino later in the year.

James Hansen in 1988 created 4 scenarios to display what can be expected depending on how serious climate change was taken; contrarian fraud misrepresented two of his scenarios, and then argued he was wrong. The hyperlinks provide the details.

Just lately two studies have been published in relation to Antarctica; one showing the degree of melting of the Antarctic, interestingly the other study supports the first study in a way, on the basis as volume of ice is lost causes the bedrock is lifting slightly.

People die from climate change. Also visit epidemiological studies.

A New York Times article warns that 800 million people are at risk in South Asia.

James Hansen et al have provided research in relation to sea level rise, they postulate that sea level rise will be far greater than what the IPCC has predicted.

So if you don’t mind people dying or being placed in survival conditions; then continue to push the status quo; a business as usual approach promoting coal, gas and coal powered stations. The risks created for young people increase with time; the warning provided by Professor James Anderson is certainly not the only one provided by scientists.

Please prove me wrong, though to do so it will be necessary to debunk the references provided. The article is about the exceptionally high risk of ignoring climate change, the risks are increasing rapidly. Though civil strife and war are the most likely matters; rather than, excessive warmth that pose the greatest danger as essential resources are lost.

This article was originally published in the Tasmanian Times.

Keith Antonysen has been researching climate change for several years. Apart from reading about climate science, Keith also views pseudo-science presented by contrarians. It seems that the material referenced by contrarians is continually recycled. Doctoring graphs is something that has been used on occasion. Fossil fuel companies have known for decades about the impact of their products.

The Sixth Extinction & The Third Book

It may come as something of a surprise to many to learn that we are currently in the midst of what is called the ‘Sixth Extinction’ – that is, the sixth wave of mass extinctions of plant and animal species since the demise of the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago.

What is particularly concerning about this event is that it is unlike the past five extinction waves which were caused by natural phenomena like asteroid impacts and volcanic eruptions. The Sixth Extinction has been caused by the actions of Mankind. 99% of flora and fauna species currently identified as threatened with extinction have been linked to activities like land clearing, habitat destruction, air and water pollution, and warming induced by human activity.

Noted conservation scientist David Wilcove estimates that there are between 14,000 and 35,000 endangered species in the United States alone, which represents 7-18 % of all US flora and fauna.

What is patently clear is that thousands of species of plant and animal will disappear forever from the face of the Earth in the coming decades.

Perhaps one of the most striking elements of the present extinction crisis is the fact that the majority of our closest relatives, the primates, are severely endangered. This is the group that includes monkeys, lemurs and apes (as well as humans) and many are fast disappearing. In addition to the primates, marine mammals including several species of whales, dolphins, and porpoises are among those mammals slipping quickly toward extinction.

It is notable that the latter mammalian group – whales and dolphins – have inhabited the planet for just over 50 million years, and in that time they have successfully populated all of the major oceans of the world as apex species. Mankind, by comparison, boasts a heritage of a mere 2.5 million years, yet despite their relatively short tenure they have caused a level of destruction and imbalance which has culminated in the first planetary mass extinction event brought about by a native species.

For all of our supposed intellect and sophistication, what is it that we are missing with respect to how we interact with our natural environment?  Put another way, what are whales doing right, that we’re doing wrong? Is the simple fact of the matter that there are just too many of us for the planet to sustain? Land clearing for cattle grazing remains the largest contributor to the wholesale destruction of natural habitats. Overfishing and the high attendant level of by-catch wastage are causing the collapse of fish stocks across the world’s major fishing grounds.

Our lax attitudes toward effluent and pollution also play a major role. Steadily increasing demand for water, the damming of rivers throughout the world and the dumping and accumulation of various pollutants have made aquatic ecosystems some of the most threatened on the planet. 21% of the planet’s fish species evaluated were deemed at risk of extinction by the IUCN in 2010, including more than a third of sharks and rays.

It appears there are two factors in operation here – firstly the natural pressure on the planet caused by sheer population numbers, and secondly our collective attitudes toward our planetary ‘footprint’; the impact our activity has on the environment.

For many years I have championed the causes of animal rights and environmental protection, and I can observe in both arenas that there is always a common element of human superiority coming into play. By and large, we still hold to the view that the planet and its non-human co-habitants are limitless resources put there for our use. We naturally resist changes to lifestyle, energy, dietary and consumer patterns when confronted with the notion that those natural resources are threatened or under strain. And often the moves to make change are stymied by the actions of government and big business who have a vested interest in things remaining as they are.

Having authored reports on localized decline of small whale and dolphin species in Japanese waters, and having documented the dolphin captivity industry, my recently published work ‘Home’ is my first foray into the field of literary fiction as a vehicle for delivering a message. And just like the story itself, the writing of it came with a twist.

When I found myself in confinement in an immigration detention centre, I never in my wildest dreams imagined that I would personally experience all the cruelties of captivity which I had spoken out against so passionately.

I was detained in one of Australia’s cruellest gulags – Christmas Island. The name is deceptive and there was little cause for celebration or festivity in what is the equivalent of a maximum security prison, set into a lush ancient forest on a remote island in the Indian Ocean. There was no possibility of seeing my wife or my family, and I lived daily amongst people broken by misery and despair. Many had lived there for years, in a prison with no definable release date.

I wrote in order to survive mentally and emotionally. To keep my mind strong. I held to my firm belief that we should always reach out to others with compassion and respect. That we must carefully consider our relationship with our fellow co-habitants of planet Earth; both human and non-human. This is a central theme in the book ‘Home.’

‘Home’ is based on real events. Research has always been a primary consideration for my work, and ‘Home’ is no different in that respect.  One of the greatest challenges in writing and researching was the difficult conditions under which I worked. Computer and internet access was limited and I was forced to rely on the good old ‘analogue’ method of pen and paper writing a lot of the time. My wife chided me recently and suggested there was really no need to go to the lengths I did to research captivity!

I was routinely searched for contraband and weapons in the detention centre, and this added to the sense of powerlessness and humiliation one experiences in confinement. Yet I took a secret pleasure in the fact that, as far as I was concerned as a writer; my pen was the greatest weapon anyone could ever carry, and it was with me constantly. I like to think I have done some major damage with it, and perhaps Parker might consider giving me a sponsorship deal, or at the very least a new pen to replace my battle-weary old veteran!

 “Never pull a tiger by the tail. Never lock a writer in a cage”

As you can probably see, despite the paralysing misery of my situation, I never lost my sense of humour or my spirit, and hopefully my writing is imbued with these qualities.

So this book has become something of a statement about captivity, written entirely in captivity. You might be forgiven for thinking that this is just another book with a “greenie anti-cap” message. You may be partially correct in this appraisal, however ‘Home’ goes beyond that now familiar ‘Save the whales’ dialogue and touches on a spirituality and a sense of deeper mystery and intrigue that should appeal to a far broader audience.

The tale is told from the perspective of Adam Svenson, a man we meet as he is entering prison. At the same time, a parallel tale of the capture of two young orcas is told. We learn that Adam, who has been drawn to the oceans, has been somehow involved in their capture.

Steadily the loose weave of connection between man and orca tightens. When Adam is increasingly confronted by visions of a mystic whale, the story takes an unexpected twist and the reader is drawn into an unexpected mystery.

In a surprise ending, the concept of ‘home’ takes on a far deeper spiritual meaning

‘Home’ is something of a modern day parable, suggesting some deeper secrets of life and universal harmony, presented in the vehicle of a compelling story of whale and human captivity.

It is a book I would recommend not just to those with a ‘green conscience’ or the lovers of animals; but also to the dreamers, the wanderers and the wonderers, and those who simply enjoy a mystery and a good read.

So, what are whales doing right, that we’re doing wrong? Read the book and find out…..

“At the end of the day, we are all just walking one another Home”

‘Home’ by Leo Jai is available in both Paperback and E-Book formats.

“Not something we would wish our children to face”

By Keith Antonysen

Below is a copy of an email sent I to a senior worker (Alistair Webster, Director of Policy) from Mr Shorten’s office, whom I met at a Town Hall-type meeting on Monday 4th June 2018. Rather than give a political talk Mr Shorten responded to questions from the audience on a range of matters. The LNP has no policy on climate change, and Direct Action has proven to be shambolic as anticipated by Turnbull prior to becoming Prime Minister.

Dear Mr Webster

My wife and I were most impressed with how Bill was able to answer off the cuff questions last night. We certainly hope that Justine [Keay] is re-elected.

My concern is that climate change is not getting enough attention; it has been subsumed by attention to energy requirements by the LNP. I believe that Australia is not taking the matter serious enough.

Turnbull often pushes the view that terrorists present a high risk; the science in relation to climate change suggests it presents far higher risks than terrorists. Some examples:

Professor James Anderson who made us aware of CFCs creating the hole in the ozone layer states we are in dire danger. World wide we must spend huge amounts of dollars to ward off extreme climate change, and have only a few years to do so.

Paleoclimate research does not present a happy picture, as Dr Burger discusses in his preliminary comments attached to research yet to be published.

Dr Burger’s research clearly provides convincing evidence in the role greenhouse gases had in causing mass extinction at the end of the Permian period. He reaches his view through chemical and mineral artefacts he found in the samples of rock he obtained.

Permafrost is thawing, which potentially provides further danger in pingos exploding in Siberia; to date 7,000 pingos have been found. One of the original pingos to explode was found to have 9.6% methane in the atmosphere of the crater formed by the explosion. Normally methane is measured in parts per billion.

While not all of the pingos discovered might have methane gas, they do present concern.

Copy of article given to you last night with hyperlinks.

My main worry about climate change is that people will be dislodged through extreme weather events when lack of fresh water, sea level rise, and crops being damaged with all sorts of nasties through flooding, create a dystopian world where insurrection, and break down of communities will be outcomes. A major tipping point is an ice free Arctic Ocean which is extremely likely to happen within thirty years when taking into account the most conservative scientist’s view point. Grounding lines of ice sheets in Antarctica are going in the wrong direction.

Not something we would wish our children to face.

Yours Sincerely

Keith Antonysen

A Fragmented Review of Climate Change

By Keith Antonysen

Munich Re which underwrites insurance companies has indicated that 2017’s high costs for climate change are the “new normal”. It could be regarded as merely an argument to increase premiums; except, a number of climate parameters suggest otherwise. Carbon Brief provides a summation of situations which have progressed over time:

  • Oceans act as a sink for warmth, it takes them a long time to warm or cool through their sheer volume.  In 2017 they were the warmest  ever recorded.
  • 2017 was the second or third warmest year recorded, depending on which dataset was used. Of significance, 2017, was the warmest year recorded without the influence of an El Nino event.
  • The Arctic sea ice extent and volume have continued to decrease, the lowest extent in September was the eighth lowest ever recorded. Volume has changed downward by about 80% since 1979.
  • Antarctic is being investigated quite profusely at present, its sea ice has been at low levels. The huge 5,698 square kilometre Larson C ice sheet  broke clear in July 2017. A number of major ice sheets are considered to be at risk as grounding lines are moving shorewards.

The significance of the Arctic, Antarctica and oceans are that they virtually act as a thermostat influencing global temperature

Oceans warming is causing coral reefs to be severely damaged, dead spots  are beginning to form in Oceans, a slight decrease in ocean oxygen production, a slight slowing down of the AMOC (Gulf Stream), and phytoplanton dying; these are matters of huge concern.

The cryosphere also presents huge concerns … thawing of permafrost, release of methane and CO2, has an influence on climate generally. The Siberian continental shelf and tundra have a huge potential to release copious amounts of CO2 and methane. The clathrate explosion scenario is a remote possibility; though, we have already had explosions of pingos in Siberia. Arctic sea ice is in poor condition with the bulk of multi year ice having been lost and about 80% of volume having  gone since 1980. Arctic sea ice could be lost within two years, a somewhat remote possibility; but, being lost in ten plus/minus years is a real possibility (follow the maths); regardless, the situation is not good.

Attribution has been an area scientists have been researching lately, the terrible hurricanes experienced in 2017 have the finger print of climate change though not caused by climate change.

California has had wild fires in winter.

With continuing use of fossil fuels more aerosols are pushed into the atmosphere; ironically, once fossil fuels are no longer used aerosols will dissipate and the atmosphere will warm initially.

A number of hyperlinks have been provided which give only an extremely small fragment of information in relation to climate change, thousands of papers are published in reputable science journals each year.

Climate change is already having an impact on individuals, communities and countries through extreme storms, drought, and huge wildfires. The dollar costs of climate change are increasing, hardly a legacy to pass onto younger people.

 

Warring on Plastic: David Attenborough, Britain and Environmental Missions

Few documentaries have had quite this impact, so much so that it has ushered in the unfortunate combination of war and plastic, two terms that sit uneasily together, if at all. Tears were recorded; anxiety levels were propelled as Sir David Attenborough tore and tugged at heart strings in his production Blue Planet II. The oceans, warned the documentary maker, is becoming a toxic repository, and humans are to blame.

More than eight million tons of plastic eventually finds an oceanic destination. Decomposition will take centuries. For Attenborough, one scene from the series stood out. “In it, as snowflakes settle on the ground, a baby albatross lies dead, its stomach pierced by a plastic toothpick fed to it by its own mother, having mistaken it for healthy food. Nearby lies plastic litter that other hungry chicks have regurgitated.”

For Attenborough, plastic supplies a certain demonology for the environmental movement, a vast and urgent target that requires mass mobilisation and action. “There are fragments of nets so big they entangle the heads of fish, birds, turtles, and slowly strangle them. Other pieces of plastic are so small that they are mistaken for food and eaten, accumulating in fishes’ stomachs, leaving them undernourished.”

To firstly declare war against something deemed valuable, even indispensable, to preservation, distribution and storage over a multitude of products, to name but a few purposes, is lofty. To also identify the casus belli against the inanimate again finds haunting resonance with other failed conflicts: the war against drugs, for instance, or that against terrorism. Will this war go the same way?

Guilty consciences are powerful motivators, and fewer guiltier than the affluent, or mildly affluent. Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May is one, a figure who has decided to embrace the environmental cause with vote grabbing enthusiasm. “In the UK alone,” she intoned, “the amount of single-use plastic wasted every year would fill 1,000 Royal Albert Halls.”

May’s direction is far from surprising. There is Attenborough propelling a movement, and there are the votes that went begging in 2017. A Tory think-tank, Bright Blue, found that many who refused to vote for her party in the last general election considered environmental initiatives key. Its polling “shows that climate change is the second highest issue younger people want senior politicians to discuss more, second only to health, and actually the top issue for 18- to 28-year-olds.”

In getting on the cart against plastic, May has attempted, unconvincingly, to reassure critics that moving Britain out of the EU would not result in a lowering of environmental standards. Britannia will remain responsible. Her government, she spoke with confidence at London Wetland Centre, would “leave the natural environment in a better state than we found it”.

What Sir David says, goes, though May has suggested a slow approach that would eradicate all avoidable plastic waste in the UK by 2042. (What, then, is unavoidable? The question remains unanswered.) “Plastic-free” aisles are to be encouraged; taxes and charges on takeaway containers are being proposed. None of these, it should be noted, entails Parliamentary regulation, retaining the old British approach of gradualism in action. No revolutions, please.

Supermarket chains smell climbing profits, luring the ecologically minded to shelves and fridges like willing prey. One such outlet is Iceland, a chain that wasted little time getting on the radio and airwaves to ride the green belt. Targets have been advertised, and it promises to remove plastic packaging from all its own labelled products over the next five years. Even better, goes the fine print, it will enable those with less heavily laden wallets to shop and stay green.

Companies such as Proctor & Gamble, makers of Head & Shoulders Shampoo, have collaborated to produce a recycled shampoo bottle using plastic found in beaches. This, in turn, pads out it advertising campaigns. Use our shampoo, and feel good about yourself.

The guilty consciences were whirling and emoting on BBC Radio 4 on Tuesday as callers spoke of efforts to spend a week free of plastic, but ignobly failing before their friends, neighbours and fellow citizens, all of whom had managed to go one day further. There were accounts about how French and German supermarkets ensure that fruits and vegetables are free, emancipated from the confines of plastic, and, it would seem, ready to salve the conscience of the green consumer.

In Britain, Attenborough’s environmental influence has become priestly for such individuals as Oswestry schoolteacher Mandy Price. She has roped her daughter in as well in what has become a social media campaign featuring #doitfordavid, shared 125,000 times within a matter of hours. “It has been shared on every continent apart from Antarctica,” praises Emily Davies of the Border Counties Advertiser.

This arms race of satisfying a bruised conscience has an undeniable merit in so far as it acknowledges some of the disastrous consequences of humanity’s addiction to the accessible and the easy. Ambitious Mandy, for instance, speaks of her Facebook page “receiving photographs from lots of different people who are collecting plastic, even from holidaymakers in Cuba who have seen the posts and have recorded their own two-minute beach clean on the beautiful oceans there.”

But within such wars lie the seeds of, if not failure, then the coming of another problem.  In the British case, enduring snobbery is pointed to. In Australia’s Northern Territory, environmental groups conceded in dismay that a ban single-use plastic bags less than 35 microns in thickness introduced in 2011 had not reduced plastic bag litter at all. On the contrary, the amount had increased.

This is a battle against human behaviour, against patterns of consumption and use in the human estate. It is, if nothing else, an attempt at behavioural adjustment and revolution. Such a tall order, such a mission, but one that provides Mandy with rosy affirmation rather than dimming scepticism.

A Matter of Fifty Degrees: Climate Change in Australia

A country baked to the core, its citizens roasted, an electricity grid battered to its limits.  Capital cities trapping scorching heat, toasting its citizens and assaulting the young, the elderly, the infirm with temperature fluctuations. This is the vision of Australia by the end of this century according to an Australian National University study released earlier this month.

The study, published in Geophysical Letters, insists that, “Understanding the magnitude, as well as the frequency, of such future extremes [in temperature] is critical for limiting detrimental impacts.” Glumly, the authors note how, “The severity of possible future temperature extremes simulated by climate models in this study poses serious challenges for preparedness for future climate change in Australia.”

A few of the implications are pointed out by the chief investigator of the project, Dr. Sophie Lewis of the Fenner School of Environment and Society and the Centre of Excellent for Climate System Science at ANU.

“We have to be thinking about how we can be prepared for large population groups commuting to and from the CBD on these extremely hot days, and how we send young children to school on 50C days, how our hospitals are prepared for a larger number of admissions of young or old people, and how our infrastructure can cope with it.”

As with so much in the climate change literature, the tone is one of mild hope tempered by catastrophic prospect, a breathless urgency tinged with a slight degree of panic. Assumptions are made and duly factored in.

The ANU study, for instance, presumes a credible effort to contain global warming to 1.5C, the target set by the Paris Agreement. Even so, claims Lewis, “A lot of warming is locked into the climate system and we really have to be prepared for extremes in the future to get much worse than they are now.”

According to Lewis, the climate modelling “projected daily temperatures of up to 3.8 degrees Celsius above existing records in Victoria and New South Wales, despite the ambitious Paris efforts to curb warming.”

The study’s primary focus is on major cities, and, as is the Australian tendency, the two largest tend to figure prominently as sites of study. Prepare, city dwellers of Sydney and Melbourne, for those 50C days. Prepare, suggests Sydney’s Deputy Lord Mayor Jess Miller, for melting public transport. Anticipate “heat continents” with “grey infrastructure and roads and buildings absorbing all that heat”.

Do such reports and findings matter? In Australia, the battles rage, the sceptics froth. The ABC news site invited readers to advance suggestions as to how best to cope with such temperature rises. There is flippancy, disbelief and the usual scepticism that anyone should even bother.

Forget the model mad scientist, runs this line of opinion: temperature rises may or may not be rising and suggestions that the human race is set for catastrophe are exaggerated, if not hysterical. There is denial, even a good smattering of abuse. Climate change models are, simply, models.

A certain commentator by the name of “Rational” found Lewis and her findings tiresome, and duly employed the oldest tactic in the manual of debate by simply ignoring her findings: “Blah Blah Blah again from Dr. Sophie Lewis, my guess is she is around 30 years of age, most records broken this year are only 10/15 years of data please show me otherwise. But keep paying the good Dr in the interim.”

“RobbertBobbert” simply chose outright, abusive dismissal. “More delusion and those addicted to their Computer Model Toys.”  This was all a “Sham Scam” and Lewis and those “ABC acolyte journalists” were hardly going to be around in 83 years to falsify it. “Maybe the baby that this hysterical scientist wrote about will be around to check.”

The human instinct to embrace the driving force of Thanatos, to write collective suicide notes and be cast into oblivion is well known. Entire civilizations have collapsed for failing to adapt and adjust. Evidence, even if disconcertingly staring in the face, can be refuted with pig-headed stubbornness.

In Australia, a persistent, coal-coloured scepticism remains about climate and its effects. Where mining remains the holder of orb and sceptre, a rational discussion about environment, let alone climate, is always going be stunted. The good life, even if warmer, is set to continue.

The Tony Abbotts will continue to praise rising heat on the global stage, and, if confounded by their impacts, suggest that it could hardly be happening. Such are the views of those in denial. Chin-up and understatement are seemingly in order, and that was duly supplied Miller herself. “It’s not great news, obviously.”

Completely and totally at the mercy of the environment

Climate Change and its Effect on Biodiversity

My! … That’s a big one!

Well, the name “Climate Change” speaks for itself. There’s no mistaking that title. But what of “Bio-diversity”? Life-diversity = Diverse life. What is that in regards to where we live and how will it be affected with slow or dramatic alteration?

Years ago, we purchased a bush block out there near Yookamurra Sanctuary. Some of it was regrowth, but there were stands of original mallee forest. After we purchased it we went for an “explore”. We walked down a track, on one side the evidence of regrowth, with its scattering of jagged limestone clusters on account of the clearing, on the other much more dense and uniform mallee trees with the burnished silvered leaf-litter spread away uniformly under the trees.

Something caught my eye and I turned off the track onto the leaf-litter. I had only gone about five steps in when I became aware of walking on a deep, soft bed of what must be undisturbed litter. Self-consciously, I back-tracked to the hard ground and looked where I had stepped.

My footprints had left an indelible impression on the litter, so soft and brittley fragile was the organic makeup. On close examination I could see the structure and substance of that delicate fabric spread wide over the forest floor. While the ground at my feet was dry and hard, the soil under the litter was moist, easily friable and composed of numerous tiny and minute insects feeding, no doubt, on many more decomposing insect, leaf-matter and fungi etc. Truly, the whole intricate composition of that sub-environment and the intertwined relationship with the insect kingdom had to be acknowledged as a natural work of art!

I stood up and stepped back to see the picture as a whole.

There above was the cloudy sky, then the mallee canopy down, down the silky branches to the scaly trunk and knobbly bole to the multilayered litter there on the forest floor. Each part there named adhered by an invisible tendon to the next and , as if in contractual agreement, one supplying the other with the necessities of life itself..take one away and break the link, the next will surely falter and, eventually, fail.

So that is what climate change most probably will do to such a specialised, interlinked environment. Especially now that it is already far stretched by the culled resources and erratic weather conditions experienced in the mallee.

That huge typhoon (read; cyclone) in the Philippines a couple of years ago; “Typhoon Haiyan”, gives cause for us to reflect how dangerous the weather has become. I will not debate here the ludicrous denial of climate change connection that is “fiddling while Rome burns”. We have a more pressing concern: What are we to do in the event of such a serious weather event in our district?

While I’d admit the likelihood of a typhoon striking the Murray-Mallee is remote, other storms and heatwaves most certainly will … and if we trust the science (as we do in a multitude of other categories), such storms and heatwaves may increase in size and intensity.

That death toll in the Philippines shows that regardless of preparation, the sheer depth and ferocity of the storm was underestimated. It is always too late once the disaster has hit! … I have worked in locations where the temperature can go to over 50 degrees … nothing of consequence functions for long above ground at that temperature! … here, in the mallee, we have come close to and in some places exceeded that temperature. If it was to become a regular thing over summer, it will be catastrophic for the very young and the aged. It is time we admitted, both to ourselves and to the world out there that we humans are completely and totally at the mercy of the natural environment … and we can no longer afford to ride roughshod over its existence.

We have said all that we can say in defence of sustainability, we have lamented all we can lament on environmental destruction … it is time now to act. We count on the government to implement policies that reflect concern on a global scale, while we implement actions on a local plan. We need our local government to design and deliver to the community a plan, a timetable and a costing drawn up and printed out on display in every town in the local council areas, showing step by step procedures to respond to dangerous weather systems.

The cruel visuals of the suffering and the dead of those people of the Philippines shows it is too late and too useless to have wisdom in hindsight … and I doubt among those throngs of injured, hungry, thirsty, homeless masses, there were too many of the wealthy and well-connected persons … they would’ve been long-gone before the typhoon hit! We have been warned with that tragedy and others … there is no doubt ferocious storms and severe drought will come our way … the last decade has been the hottest on record … the rising intensity of the storms and temperatures are what the science said they would be … all very well to wish it would go away … don’t we all wish such things would. But it isn’t, it won’t and it is here, it is now and it will only, with time get worse.

We have reached that ‘blind Freddy” moment where we have to concede that we, as mammalian species, are completely and totally at the mercy of the environment! We must acknowledge it … respect it!

Let us consider the poetical metaphor effect first promulgated by Edward Lorenz … that the infinitesimal movement of air from the flapping of a butterfly’s wing may create a “ripple effect” much like a pebble dropped into a pond, whose link doth cause a hurricane a thousand miles away. We need to “see” the biodiversity in the environment as a poet “sees”  life in the stanzas he composes, and then indeed, will we be mesmerised by nature’s song!

Protesting Against Adani: The National Day of Action

Melbourne.

“Be careful, you might get run over.” So squawks an administrator from the local RMIT University as she dashes towards Princess Park, Melbourne. The need for this jet propulsion enthusiasm is clear: a gathering is being organised in the park, amongst other venues, in a national day of action. The bogeyman? The Indian monster mining concern, Adani.

Across some 45 venues in Australia, protestors gathered, banners flown, speeches given. “I have a two-year old daughter,” exclaimed Bondi surf life saver Simon Fosterling at the Sydney end of the protest on Saturday, “and I don’t want to have a conversation with her in 10 years time and the mine’s gone ahead and she says to me ‘dad, why didn’t you do something’.”

Adani is one of many examples how a world after democracy works, with a country’s functionaries – in this case Australia’s – no better than bureaucrats pushing the agenda of the unelected, giving funeral orations on sovereignty. Exit democracy; welcome lobbies and sweetheart deals.

When members of parliament enthusiastically extend their hands to a company which has little intention of being left to the predations of the free market, we know that the world has been inverted. Natural economic selection might be what is promoted by the free-traders, but the practice is a fiction.

Behind many a significant Australian politician is a staffer, a lobbyist, or an obscure official with some profane tie to the natural resource industry. (Think Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Adani lobbyist and Bill Shorten’s former chief of staff Cameron Milner).

In Australia, those against market intervention, coddling and backing fortunate “winners” against unfortunate losers, don different hats when to comes to certain industries. In those instances, parliamentarians become socialists for the corporation, divvying up tax dollars for those engaged in sacred pursuits, especially those renting the earth.

Be it a fawning Labor government in Queensland (water rights and royalty concessions) or the accommodating Conservative government in Canberra (a huge loan), Australian politicians have been salivating at every chance to throw money at the Indian concern. This is rampant corporate colonialism, and the natives have arms widely stretched in almost treasonous welcome.

The glowing achievement of this effort will be a near billion dollar loan for the company, footed by the Australian tax payer via the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility. The money will subsidise a proposed railway line from the mine site in the Galilee Basin to Abbot Point coal port.

The effort is all the more impressive in its soiled quality given the steadfast refusal by the banking sector to fork out anything for the corporation. Adani’s efforts have so far failed to convince any major bank that their Australian coal venture is a sound one. Coal is seeing its last days, and only the dinosaurs continue worshipping at its shrine.

The impetus for some of the organisers behind the Saturday protest came from the juicy outlining of Adani’s exploits in the ABC’s Four Corners program, though Stop Adani and a range of groups have been busy documenting the company’s exploits for some years. The court record of the company, spanning employment, environmental and criminal law, is thick.

The ABC team did much in revealing the nature of Adani’s corrupt modus operandi while also receiving a disconcerting welcome at the hands of police whilst being detained in an Indian hotel. But it also revealed a stunned former Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh, who could barely believe that Australia’s public purse was being allied to the company’s venture. “I’m very, very surprised that the Australian government, uh, for whatever reason, uh, has uh, seen it fit, uh, to all along handhold Mr Adani.”

A central fear about its proposed operations is what will happen to the environment, most notably the already imperilled Great Barrier Reef. Ravaged by coral bleaching and climate change, the reef’s fragile existence is further threatened by an Indian family’s private interests. Imagine, for instance, a repeat of the 2011 oil spill off the coast of Mumbai, where an unseaworthy vessel carrying 60,054 metric tonnes of Adani coal found its way to the bottom of the ocean.

Added to that the company’s reluctance in pursuing cleaning up operations, and the picture gets gloomier, given that 60 million tones of coal could be passing through the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage area.

The company’s operations over the years reveal a persistent track record of ecological criminality and despoliation, thinning out tourism industries, destroying beaches and poisoning rivers. To this can be added contentious and patently dangerous employment practices, some involving child labour.

To add a delightful rounder to the resume, Adani is also adept in its book keeping. Evading taxation is one of its fortes, with Environmental Justice Australia and Earthjustice noting how “13 of the 26 Adani subsidiaries registered in Australia are ultimately owned in the Cayman Islands.” This must surely be the more ironic, if fiendishly brilliant endeavour: to avoid paying tax while receiving tax funds.

Saturday saw the release by the Stop Adani group of polling figures by ReachTEL that 56 percent of Australians were against the mine. (This, of course, is hardly overwhelming opposition, but counts as something).

The movement against Adani has found public voice, and gathering momentum. Environmental prudence is finally finding steam, supported by apocalyptic visions of poisoned reefs and river beds. The political agents of mismanagement are, however, ready to do their worst. Mining fundamentalism remains in charge.

 

Resting Sea Shepherd: A Pause in the Whale War Saga

What a colourful run this outfit has had. Branded in 2013 by Judge Alex Kozinski of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit as pirates, the Sea Shepherd crew will be hanging up their hooks while rethinking their whale protection strategy. Their long designated enemy, the Japanese whaling fleet, will be given some respite this hunting season.

A crucial point here is evolution. The environmental battle, spearheaded by the Southern Ocean Whale Defence campaign, had become more troublingly sophisticated. “Military” tactics, claimed founder Captain Paul Watson, were being used by Japan. An already slippery adversary had raised the bar.

But Watson, in his announcement, was attempting to give some lustre to the long-term efforts of the project. Against absurdly gargantuan odds, a small organisation’s resources were mustered to save whale species from imminent extinction.

“In 2005 we set out to tackle the world’s largest and most destructive whaling fleet.” It was a destruction centred on targeting 1,035 whales, including an annual quota of 50 endangered Fin whales and 50 endangered Humpbacks. The sceptics were to be found on all sides: they doomed the organisation’s mission to imminent, crestfallen failure.

The humble, worse for wear Farley Mowat was enlisted to harry Japanese whalers across the Southern Ocean. But to it were added, over time, the Steve Irwin, the Bob Barker, the Sam Simon the Brigitte Bardot and the Ocean Warrior.

For Watson and his dedicated piratical crew, the law of environmental protection often lagged, while political action and matters of enforcement proved timid. States with greater power and resources were simply not keen on ruffling Japanese feathers. Statements if disapproval hardly counted.

Japanese whalers have faced the legal music in a range of venues, though as with everything, the might of the gavel doesn’t necessary restrain the might of a state, whether directly used or incidentally employed. In November 2015, Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha was fined $1 million by the Australian Federal Court for hunting minke whales within an Australian sanctuary as defined by Australian environmental law. The whaling company cared not to turn up nor subsequently cough up.

Enter, then, the organisation’s insistence on the use of “innovative direct-action tactics”, thereby putting a premium on investigation, documentation and the taking of “action when necessary to expose and confront illegal activities on the high seas.”

Preventive tactics, such as those employed in 2013 in the Southern Ocean, would feature attempts to prevent Japanese ships from taking refuelling sustenance from a tanker. On cue, both the crew of the Japanese vessels, and Sea Shepherd, would release material suggesting that the other had deliberately attempted to ram their ships.

On reaching the legal courts, the Sea Shepherd book of cetaceous protection tended to look more blotted. The Japanese angle in these instances was to emphasise the danger posed to crews, the potentially lethal bravado of the Sea Shepherd warriors. To do so offered a sizeable distraction from the legitimacy of the hunting activities.

“When you,” directed a stern Judge Kozinski, “ram ships, hurl glass containers of acid, drag metal-reinforced ropes in the water to damage propellers and rudders, launch smoke bombs and flares with hooks; and point high-powered lasers at other ships, you are, without a doubt, a pirate.”

For years, the militant nature of the organisation brought various agents, and agencies, into play. It used guerrilla tactics of gumption and daring, though it was the sort of audaciousness that divided opinion, even in the environmental ranks. Such methods may well been crude but few could dispute their effects. In 2012/3, Japanese whalers, according to Watson, returned with a meagre 10 per cent of intended kills.

The strategy of the Japanese whaling fleet, as Watson reflects, has always been shape shifting, apologetics followed by bellicosity; the fictional narrative of science overlaying arguments of culture. While still flouting legality, the number of intended whales has fallen to 333, a victory that can be, to a degree, chalked up to Sea Shepherd’s techniques of mass irritation and disruption. But to this can be added a more expansive scope embraced by their adversary: wider killing grounds, more opportunities to gather their quarry.

By 2016/7, it was clear to Watson that the Japanese were still able to net their quota, albeit at greater expense in terms of time and cost. That same hunting season also threw up a few new realities: the use by the Japanese of “military surveillance to watch Sea Shepherd movements in real time by satellite”. While the group, assisted by their helicopter, did get close to capture evidence of whaling, they “could not physically close the gap.” Hence the sombre admission by Watson: “We cannot compete with their military grade technology.”

Sea Shepherd’s mission remains, as outlined on its web site, “to end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world’s oceans in order to conserve and protect ecosystems and species.” But more than a few in the Japanese whaling fleet will be pleased at the organisation’s absence this killing season.

Dr Binoy Kampmark is a senior lecturer in the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies, RMIT University. He was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, University of Cambridge. He is a contributing editor to CounterPunch and can be followed on Twitter at @bkampmark.

 

August 15, 2017: the most important day in the future

They say we can’t predict the future, but I’m damn sure we can do a lot to control the course of it.

When we look back on our own past, our country’s past, or even the world’s past … there will be a hundred signposts that we missed that could have taken us down a better path. Maybe it’s our job to now leave our own signposts. The events of tomorrow can only be guided by the events of today. If we decide to do nothing today then nothing will happen tomorrow.

Let us assume that the straight line we call ‘time’ continues on its merry way, and as we follow it to see what has happened – or not happened – we’ll be able to see that much of the events in the future are not without our influence. August 15, 2017 is a very important date in the future. Probably the most important day, as it is the first day in our future, and every event beyond this tiny 24 hours will be shaped by it.

Shall we follow that line? I’ve found the line here, at Future Timeline and a lot of what awaits us is unpleasant, yet clearly our doing. Can it be undone? Probably not, but we can control the scope of it. Anyway, let’s get moving, there’s lots to see:

2020: Glacier National Park and other regions are becoming ice-free.

2035: The Arctic is becoming ice-free in Summer.

2040: Average global temperatures have risen by two degree.

2045: Major extinctions of animal and plant life.

2050: 45% of the Amazon Rainforest has been destroyed. Air quality and visibility is declining. Bushfires have tripled in some regions. The Dead Sea is drying up.

2060: Global mass migrations of refugees. Flood barriers erected in New York.

2070: Average global temperatures have risen by 4 degrees.

2080: Polar bears face extinction. One in five lizard species are extinct. Deadly heatwaves plague Europe. Traditional agriculture is decimated.

2099: Sea levels are wreaking havoc around the world. 80% of the Amazon rainforest has been lost.

2100: Extreme drought is effecting one-third of the planet. Emperor penguins face extinction.

2190: The West Antarctic ice sheet is starting to disintegrate. This area will later be populated by over 1 million people who settle on the exposed land surface.

2200: Artificial intelligence dominates the planet.

I’ve only selected a handful of the zillions of things that await us in the future, but of those, are they really beyond our control? Can they be changed by whatever happens on August 15, 2017?

They say we can’t predict the future, but I’m damn sure we can do a lot to control the course of it.

 

Contrarian views on temperature have melted away

By Keith Antonysen

It should not have been necessary to write about increasing global temperature; but, with Trump as leader of the US there appears to have been a resurgence of contrarian opinion. Trump and his cabinet are climate change deniers; evidence does not support their views.

When considering the time span climate science has been developed over, the sophistication of equipment used to ascertain that anthropogenic climate change is occurring, the observations made, and objective factors displaying change; it is difficult to understand that contrarians exist.

A recently released mega report makes it difficult for a contrarian to  put up valid opinions in relation to temperature. The report had been put together by 450 scientists using the references of thousands of scientists from properly reviewed science research.

Evidence for a changing climate abounds, from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans,” the report outlined: “Thousands of studies conducted by tens of thousands of scientists around the world have documented changes in surface, atmospheric, and oceanic temperatures; melting glaciers; disappearing snow cover; shrinking sea ice; rising sea level; and an increase in atmospheric water vapor.

Quotes from a newly republished report in New York Times had mistakenly believed they had received a leaked document:

The frequency and intensity of heavy precipitation and extreme heat events are increasing in most regions of the world and will continue to rise in the future ….  (Very high confidence).

Also,

Alaska and Arctic surface and air temperatures are rising more than twice as fast as the global average. (Very high confidence).

A very high level of confidence, means “… strong evidence (established theory, multiple sources, consistent results, well documented etc.) high consensus.” (https://assets.documentcloud.org)

Lack of temperature increase has been a fall back opinion constantly promoted by contrarians; yet, there are numerous research papers published in peer reviewed Journals which show that temperatures have constantly been increasing. There is objective evidence that temperature is increasing in the Arctic Ocean displayed by:

After 24 days at sea and a journey spanning more than 10,000 kilometers (6,214 miles), the Finnish icebreaker MSV Nordica has set a new record for the earliest transit of the fabled Northwest Passage. (https://www.cnbc.com, 2017).

Other sources have also commented on the newly re-published report:

“A range of key climate and weather indicators show the planet is growing increasingly warm, a trend that shows no signs of slowing down, said the annual State of the Climate Report.”

And:

The report confirmed prior announcements that 2016 was the hottest year since contemporary records began, marking the third year in a row that global records were broken planet-wide. Both land and sea surface temperatures set new highs. (Planet marks new highs for heat, pollutants, sea level in 2016: report).

Also:

Each year from January to June, hundreds of scientists from around the world crunch the numbers on the previous year’s climate, reviewing and cataloging everything from the humidity of the atmosphere, to the number and strength of hurricanes in every part of the ocean, to the size of the Arctic sea ice pack. (climate.gov).

Greenland is often portrayed as an area which suggests that temperatures were higher during the Medieval Warm Period than currently; but, fairly new research from Baffin Island, Canada, shows that such an opinion is not viable. The Barnes Ice Cap on Baffin Island has only been hit hard three times by high temperature over 2.5 million years.

Contrarians often state that sea level rise is not happening; but, till so far explanations for “sunny day floods” in South East USA have not been forth coming.

Contrarians can nit pick; however, they have no solid evidence to support their views, they do not have any research which can be identified as having a very high level of confidence.

Keith Antonysen is retired. He is a keen gardener, photographer, kayaker, and recreational fisher. The Vietnam War and later the flooding of Lake Pedder created an interest in politics which led to a passion for social justice issues. Currently very concerned about lack of action on climate change. Keith is not a paid up member of any political party.

The tactile experience of climate change

There can be no-one in this country by now, barring the unborn, who has not experienced, first hand, some extreme weather event. There are those in the climate change “warmist” camp who cry the ”Aha!” moment at these disasters, while those in the “denialist” cabal give a banal yawn and implore us all to “move on, there’s nothing to see, business as usual.” Meanwhile, the water rises or the sun beats down brutally! The science is in, but in public media debate, both contradict each other … (opinionated) impasse on the scientific field.

Where to from here?

Politics? Forget it! We; the people are the politics and if we cannot come to an agreement, we can hardly expect our representatives to get any guidance from this quarter, especially not in a divisive parliament. We must look elsewhere.

There is another reference point to which we can draw information. A vast congregation of untapped wealth of knowledge, dismissed up till now because of its “unqualified to verify” position. Below the elite scientific field, there are the professions which deal everyday with environmental variables and have vast experience with the subtle changes that are the “canaries in the mine” on climate shifts. Professionals who sift, plunge, mould, till, taste, sniff and feel the variables of the product they manufacture, facilitate or grow. These are the farmers, orchardists, apiarists, veterinary surgeons, livestock breeders, dedicated gardeners and sundry outdoor workers. These people, whose accrued knowledge would have fine-tuned their intuitive radar to the variables of seasonal regularity and have to make sometimes swift adjustment to counteract natural disasters are and indeed/should be used more for a weather-vane on the long-term observations of climate change. They have the stored wisdom and collated records of their experiences.

For instance:

At the entrance to my property, there are three underground tanks of average 3mx3mx3mdeep. There are two others up near the house. If I did a 360deg turn, I could point out at least another half dozen on other properties in the near vicinit … all dug by hand (ie: pick and crowbar and shovel by the pioneers … and through a solid strata of “calcrete” most prevalent in this Mallee country. It is called calcrete for a good reason, the first part of the word denotes the calcium part and the second gives clue to the concrete part … bloody solid stuff … no-one would even start to dig that many tanks and line them with home-burnt lime mortar and do the run-in/run-off swales without some confidence that they would fill regularly. No way! The work would be too back-breaking!

Those tanks are in the same location as when they dug them (obviously!), the swales are still in the same location, the “lay of the land” is still the same … but according to the lady (of the original pioneer German family) they have never filled for forty years … and I have only seen them fill suddenly once in the eleven years we have been here … and that was a cloudburst of gigantic proportions – quite unusual for these dry parts. So what has changed? Only one thing; the rainfall. The Goyder Line has shifted further west and south from here. The climate has changed.

Many multi-generation cropping/animal farmers have kept “paddock records” over the generations. They could tell a story. Orchardists too have their cropping records, vets have knowledge of animal behaviour fluctuations … interrupted breeding cycles due to weather variables etc. Apiarists, particularly, have a keen sense of “knowing” the behaviour of their ‘wards’. Even the humble home-gardener will relate their observations on the strangeness of certain plants over the last several decades! I can recall one “expert” Italian gardener shaking his head in disbelief a number of years ago at the strange event that “this is the first time in my life that I have not been able to sprout my own tomato seedlings as usual.” And I ask; If an Italian cannot grow a tomato?! (please, no racist slur – I am half Italian – and I grow tomatoes!).

The local GP is in a position to observe patterns in unusual viral or fungal infections, these tell of the “migration routes” of seasonal illnesses and can inform what is “in the air” at any one particular time of year.

As an avowed “warmist” who lives within, literally, a stones’ throw of the Goyder Line, I can see some unusual changes in the mallee in regards to flora/fauna cycles. The mallee being a “frozen in time” bio-forest with an exacting evolution to suit an exacting country and climate, any sudden changes are quite noticeable. Here is where we could use the expert opinions of fauna and flora observers to explain the reason for such variables in this and other areas of interest.

These are people and situations that we can all relate to. The scientists of both sides of the argument have reached populist deadlock, perhaps it is time to start to listen to our own collective “elders” in our own community, after all, it is us, now, who are affected, it is us, now, who must act if there is something to be done. We do not need anymore catch-cries from the rabble, but let us listen carefully to those with tactile experience in a variety of fields. I am certain there are those in the fields mentioned who read and listen with head-shaking disbelief to the ravings of some commentators and could, with the help of their own collected statistics enlighten a lot of us to the reality of climate variables that have become definite shifts to a precarious precipice.

The window of life

Climate change is one of the hottest topics (pardon the pun) when it comes to discussion on this site but we haven’t published many new climate articles recently so readers, justifiably, have sought out the older articles to continue the exchange of ideas and opinions.

A new article is clearly overdue.

And I have just the thing!

Well, it’s not exactly new. It’s a piece I wrote many years ago for the now defunct Café Whispers, but for want of a ‘new’ article here on climate change … I’ve taken the easy option. Nonetheless, it is just as pertinent today as it was at the time of writing.

I wrote:

Life, whether it be teeming in the universe or just the rarest of miracles, has either way been lucky to find a home on our fertile planet; that small, insignificant rock (in galactic terms) that just happens to be sitting in the right place of our solar system for life to survive.

It’s quite nice here. Apart from the extremities it’s not too hot, not too cold. If we keep it like that then I’m sure our stay here won’t be tenuous.

But just how lucky are we mortal types to have found this nice little spot to populate?

Immeasurably lucky, actually. Paradises like planet Earth are as accidental as the creation of life itself. It is like an oasis amid a burning, scorching desert devoid of surrounding life.

The galactic desert that surrounds us does not welcome life. Even our own sun, without which our planet would be sterile and without life, is miraculously at a safe distance so that life can prevail.

It is worth considering how fortunate we are to be able to exist on this small rock.

The center of the sun is a ‘mere’ 14.5 million degrees Celsius. A piece of it the size of a pinhead would generate enough heat to kill a person from 150 million kilometres away. How wonderful that the outer layers of the sun are much ‘cooler’, thus enabling life to exist on this planet. The coldest places in our solar system can be found at its edges where it is minus 273 degrees. How wonderful that our planet isn’t any further, or closer, to the sun.

Under what temperature extremes could human life survive? I’m guessing somewhere from a chilly minus 40 to a blistering 60. In planet Earth the gods have offered us a very small window of life.

Why then, are we so determined to damage it?

Look at the sludge that this planet has become. Look at the filth in the air, in the water and the earth of western countries and developing countries. It’s beyond belief. We see industries which are happy to choke the land, waterways and air for the sake of more profits.

The planet, obviously, isn’t important any more. Our term here is considered a right, not a privilege.

As it is it is a hostile planet: no-one gets off alive, but it’s still the best home we have.

What was once the solar system’s paradise, is now its rubbish dump. If we keep trashing it, destroying it, polluting it, playing with its climate … how long before we receive our eviction notice? How long before the window of life closes on us?

 

Book Review: Surviving the 21st Century

Surviving the 21st Century Humanity’s Ten Great Challenges and How We Can Overcome Them is Julian Cribb’s latest book. I was halfway through Chapter Two when I thought, “This book should be mandatory reading for every politician around the globe.” Everyone, politician or not, can benefit and learn from the insights and information Cribb shares with us.

Cribb takes complex global issues and distills them into a crystal clear picture of where we currently stand. Surviving the 21st Century will not be as easy as our leaders would have us believe. After my thought of required reading for politicians, I read the dustjacket reviews. I know, I know – odd timing, convention suggests I should have read them first, but I prefer to make up my own mind.

One of the dustjacket reviews by Professor Clive Hamilton, author of Requiem for a Species and Earthmasters:

With astonishing breadth of knowledge and acute observational skills, Julian Cribb has given us a book that is a kind of report on the state of life on the planet. At the centre of life on earth, he tells us, is the creature known as homo sapiens – self-deceiver, degrader, destroyer, anything it seems but sapiens. And yet, if we peer through the gloom is that a spark we can just make out, the spark of wisdom?

Jenny Goldie, past president of Sustainable Population Australia writes, “This is an important book. Few others deal with so many confronting problems in an integrated way.” The added emphasis is mine. This is what I see as the greatest value of this book to any reader: scientist, politician, educator or layperson. Emeritus Professor Bob Douglas says, “… absolutely essential reading for all politicians and policy makers, voters and young people everywhere. … Grandparents should read the book with particular care.”

Ten Greatest Threats

Cribb takes the ten greatest threats to human existence and suggests we do “the very thing we humans have always done best: understand and find co-operative solutions to life-threatening challenges”. He doesn’t just describe the threats, he offers solutions.

Cribb got me in the first chapter, Homo suilaudans. The Self-Worshipper. He describes how we ended up with the sapiens tag simply so the father of taxonomy could avoid a massive dispute (or possibly worse, given the era) with the religious fanaticism of his time. Heaven help anyone who suggested humans were not some form of divine special creation. Cribb asks the question, did this actually set a terrible trap for humans? Perhaps it did. “A name is who you are.” Or who you think you are, or want to be. As this book so clearly describes, we are not wise. Not at all.

A Topsoil Fact

Some of the facts Cribb covers I was already aware of. But I have learnt much. One learning that I found particularly interesting involves topsoil. Cribb relates how today’s crop varieties are developed to grow in modern, degraded soils. Such crops are lower in micronutrients and higher in carbohydrates and this situation is a major driver of the global obesity pandemic and other diet related diseases. I look at such things from a personal perspective – is this likely to be contributing to the ever increasing and as yet unexplained incidence of auto-immune conditions? I share this to illustrate we are ALL impacted, all readers will find relevance. All of the threats are relevant to all of us – it is our survival at stake.

The water situation globally is horrifying. Deforestation. Population growth. Bringing all these problems together is what Cribb does so well. Big problems, readily solved. If we use some wisdom.

I don’t want to share spoilers – this book is one each reader needs to discover at their own pace. I could not read this book in one session. It is damn scary. It is also immensely encouraging because while the facts are disastrous, Cribb clearly shows there are ways we can get through this. Ways to ensure surviving the 21st century.

If we stop being Homo delusus.

The human brain is a complex organ with the wonderful power of enabling man to find reasons for continuing to believe whatever it is that he wants to believe.” – Voltaire (Surviving the 21st Century, p 171)

Like, you know, “clean coal”.

Fund Science

One conclusion I came to is the current trend of many in power ignoring science, of slashing funding for scientific endeavour, has to stop. That, my friends, is up to us, the voters.

I’ve never demonstrated or marched – been tempted a few times over the years, but never did. On Saturday, April 22, I marched. For science. I’m interested in surviving. I want my grandchildren to survive. I publish this review on ANZAC Day. My father fought in World War II – he didn’t fight so we could become extinct – at our own hands.

March for Science

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