6th Mass Extinction, Addiction to Fossil Fuels, Bliss Point of Sugar, Capitalism, Carrying Capacity, Climate Change, Climate Change Denial, Collapse of Industrial Civilization, Corporate $tate, Corporatocracy, Dalai Lama, Death by Dollars, Dr. Suzanne de la Monte, Eco-Apocalypse, Ecological Overshoot, Environmental Collapse, Extinction of Man, Geoengineering, Hydropower, Inverted Totalitarianism, IPCC, Kurt Vonnegut, Mass Die Off, Nate Hagens, Overpopulation, Paul Chefurka, Processed Food, Senator James Inhofe, Senator Mitch McConnell, Suicide by CO2, The Unsustainability of Mega-Cities, Tragedy of Privatizing the Commons, WWF's Living Planet Report
Unresponsive and Corrupt Governments
Another election cycle passes and the American people responded with the lowest voter turnout since WWII. The staged events of today’s political rallies will soon be composed solely of people paid off with corporate bribes to wave flags and chant slogans. As ever more corporate money floods into the faux democratic process, participation by the average citizenry has plummeted. Americans are now more disillusioned with the charade of “American democracy” than at any time in history:
Confidence in Congress as an institution is at 7%, the lowest measurement in history and lower than any other institution tested, including organized labor, banks and big business. Views of the honesty and ethics of members of Congress are at 8% on average, one percentage point above lobbyists, but one point below car salesmen… – link
We are also undoubtedly becoming more callous and insensitive to our fellow-man when a 90-year-old gentleman is arrested for feeding the homeless from a church kitchen. In fact, we’ve lost all our humanity and exchanged it for the almighty dollar. Neoliberal capitalism has permeated very aspect of social and civic life, creating a new epitaph for the demise of such a mean-spirited culture —‘death by dollars’.
You Are What You Eat
I just became aware of Dr. Suzanne de la Monte’s studies on the food industry’s use of sugar in all its products in order to fabricate a consumer “bliss point” for maximizing sales. Capitalist industrial civilization has bred a morbidly obese creature conditioned to overeat processed food spiked with sugar, fat, and salt. A high-fructose diet has undoubtedly turned the cognitive skills of many into mush. John Oliver recently used a clip from her work in his takedown of the sugar industry:
“De la Monte has done her research by feeding healthy rats the equivalent of a North American diet, complete with all the sugars and fat. All her rats ended up demented.” – from the documentary The Secrets of Sugar
The Dopamine Rush of Fossil Fuels
With the recent elections the lunatics have taken control of the asylum. Oklahoma Republican James Inhofe, recipient of 2012 Rubber Dodo Award, is in line to chair the Senate’s top environmental job, and incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says his first priority will be to “do whatever I can to get the EPA reined in.” At least a dozen newly-elected climate science deniers will be there to help Mitch compete with China and India in a race to global mass extinction.
The IPCC stated back in 2007 that emissions would have to peak in 2015 to avoid a rise of 2°C, but since that is not going to happen, they are putting their hopes in technology that could pull CO2 out of the atmosphere while conceding that such techniques are “uncertain” and “limited”. Mankind’s grave is already deep enough, yet we keep digging. Just as China’s coal consumption has registered a drop for the first time this century, India has announced it will pick up the slack by planning to double its coal production to meet the country’s soaring energy demand. Poland has rejected the IPCC target of zero emissions by 2100. In the U.S., new data has revealed that climate change has become the most politically divisive issue in the U.S.
According to energy expert Nate Hagens, modern-day carbon man’s metabolic energy consumption makes each of us a 30-ton primate. It appears the Pavlovian conditioning of modern man to energy dense fossil fuels and capitalist wealth have irrevocably hacked and rewired his brain’s reward system. The autopsy results for the age of the Anthropocene will read: “fossil fuel overdose” and “suicide by CO2”.
Hydropower is Not Green
Even overlooking the GHG emissions from a dam’s construction and maintenance, hydropower is seen by some as a “renewable energy source”, yet it is apparently a much larger source of methane emissions than once thought, perhaps releasing nearly as much as the methane emissions that accompany the burning of fossil fuels:
…In 2012 study, researchers in Singapore found that greenhouse gas emissions from hydropower reservoirs globally are likely greater than previously estimated, warning that “rapid hydropower development and increasing carbon emissions from hydroelectric reservoirs to the atmosphere should not be downplayed.”
Those researchers suggest all large reservoirs globally could emit up to 104 teragrams of methane annually. By comparison, NASA estimates that global methane emissions associated with burning fossil fuels totals between 80 and 120 teragrams annually…
Nonetheless, industrial civilization is currently damming up every large river on the planet:
The Unraveling Web of Life
The report writers, based on data kept by the Zoological Society of London, studied 10,380 populations of 3,038 species of amphibians, birds, fish, mammals and reptiles from 1970 to 2010. Over these four decades, the average decline of these vertebrate species was 52 per cent – all in less than two human generations.
Amongst freshwater species the population decline was a staggering 76 per cent, owing to habitat loss, land fragmentation, pollution and invasive species.
In the same period terrestrial species declined by 39 per cent through unsustainable land use and increased poaching, often spurred on by wildlife crime syndicates.
Marine species declined also by 39 per cent, to include large migratory seabirds, many shark species and also sea turtles.
A major contributory factor to marine loss of life was through by catching (accidentally catching, in certain fish net sizes, species which were of no market value and then casting these dead fish overboard), illegal fishing and overfishing of the same fishing grounds.
Currently we need a 50 per cent bigger Earth to allow the regeneration of the natural resources we consume…
…By 2050, we will have an extra 2.4 billion people in our world, with urban populations increasing from 3.6 billion in 2011 to 6.3 billion. In 1970, there were only two megacities (over 10 million people) – New York and Tokyo; in 2014 there are 28 such cities – 16 in Asia, three each in Europe and Africa, four in Latin America and two in North America, all totalling 12 per cent of the world’s urban population.
The United Nations (UN) predicts that in 2025, there will be 37 megacities with eight new ones in Asia. Also in the pipeline are meta-cities – conurbations of over 20 million people – through the amalgamation of megacities…
…The report interestingly mentions that the diversity of human languages in our world is strongly correlated to areas of high plant diversity. Some linguists have predicted that 90 per cent of the world’s languages will expire by the end of this century…
Here is an interesting graph created by Paul Chefurka which shows that the combined biomass of humans with their farm animals exceeds the natural carrying capacity of the earth sevenfold:
In the graphic, the “wild animal” biomass doesn’t include insects, bacteria, or marine organisms.
I used three data sources to develop the chart: a paper by world-respected ecological scientist Vaclav Smil, called “Harvesting the Biosphere”, linked below; world population estimates from the of the same name; and the UN’s Medium Fertility variant for the human population in 2050 (9.6 billion).
The definition I used for Global Carrying Capacity is, “The biomass the planet can support without the assistance of human technology or fossil fuels.” The impact of human activity has gradually eroded the Earth’s carrying capacity over time, which is why I show the red dotted line sloping down to the right. The degree of erosion is very hard to estimate. My guess is that we may have lost around 25% by this point, some of which would of course be naturally regenerated over time in the absence of human activity. Any biomass above that dotted line has to be supported by human technology and energy supplies (which at this point are mostly from fossil fuels).
The conclusion is that we have been living in the midst of an accelerating Global Mass Extinction Event for over 100 years already. Unfortunately we’ve been too fixated on human issues like economics and politics to even notice, let alone realize what it means. Those who did realize the significance, both to wildlife and the human species, have been powerless to act in the face of economics and politics.
Paul gives the following further explanation for the graph:
The definition one uses for “carrying capacity” is so loose as to make it quite arbitrary. Here’s the definition I used: “The global carrying capacity is the total biomass of the organisms under consideration that the planet can support without the assistance of technology or fossil fuels.”
Accordingly, I estimated the carrying capacity in this case as being about the same as the world’s wild animal biomass in 10,000 BCE, with the assumption that the unassisted carrying capacity of the world would have been fully utilized at that point. I estimated the wild animal biomass in 10,000 BCE as being somewhat less than the combined wild and domestic animal biomass in 1900, per Smil. I made it lower in order to account for the technological intensification of farming already well under way by that time.
The slope of the carrying capacity line is arbitrary, because it’s impossible to determine how much we have actually eroded the world’s unassisted carrying capacity. We just know that we have. I chose the slope to correspond to my belief that we’ve eroded it by about 25% at this point. The actual slope is therefore somewhat editorial.
The Dalai Lama says, “Affection, a sense of community and a sense of concern for others are not some kind of luxury. They’re about the survival of humanity,” but the socio-economic system that rules the world is characterized by hyper-individualism and self-interest devoid of moral constraints. A system that enshrines greed and mocks equity and the public good will never be able to find a solution to the tragedy of privatizing the commons.
All lights are about to go out. No more electricity. All forms of transportation are about to stop, and the planet Earth will soon have a crust of skulls and bones and dead machinery. And nobody can do a thing about it. It’s too late in the game. Don’t spoil the party, but here’s the truth: We have squandered our planet’s resources, including air and water, as though there were no tomorrow, so now there isn’t going to be one.
~ Kurt Vonnegut