Amazon Fires, Antarctic Ice Melt, Anthropocene Mass Extinction, Climate Change, Collapse of Industrial Civilization, Coronavirus Pandemic, COVID-19, Greenland Ice Melt, Greenwashing, Heatwaves, Marine Heatwaves, MegaFires, Pyrocene, Stephen Hawking, Thomas Berry, Zoonotic Diseases
“We must now understand that our own well-being can be achieved only through the well-being of the entire natural world around us.” ~ Thomas Berry
As governments stared glass-eyed at what was unfolding in China earlier this year, the fragility of modern life’s interconnectedness was soon to be laid bare by a microscopic organism. Within a couple months of the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, airline travel from China had spread the novel virus to more than 60 countries. Despite decades of warnings about the inevitability of such an event, politicians had paid about as much lip service to preventing the next pandemic as they had to dealing with climate change. As has been warned by health experts, the best we can hope for is to blunt the effects of the COVID-19 disease on the global population; eradicating it will be futile. Something similar could be said of the legacy effects of our CO2 emissions which will haunt life on Earth for time immemorial.
A study from 2014 found the total number of infectious disease outbreaks has more than quadrupled between 1980 and 2010. Approximately 75% of all emerging infectious diseases originate from animals and chances for pandemics are increasing as humanity’s growing assault on the natural world disrupts what remains of the planet’s ecosystems. If you need further evidence that we are annihilating life on Earth, consider that the microscopic mite, among the oldest and most plentiful invertebrates on the planet and a keystone species in many ecosystems, is disappearing at least 1,000 times the natural rate. More novel zoonotic diseases will eventually be unleashed into the bloodstream of the globalized economy as corporations revive parasitic growth at the expense of a habitable planet. The coronavirus pandemic is a symptom of our unfolding Anthropocene Mass Extinction which is accelerating.
The current pandemic may well mark the beginning of the end for growth as we knew it. In the U.S. right now, there are 29 million unemployed and tens of thousands of small businesses that have closed during the pandemic will never reopen. In the Age of Environmental Breakdown, there can never be a return to normal. For the normal that industrial civilization has become accustomed to is the very thing ripping to pieces those white picket-fenced lives in suburbia. A Biden presidency may bring back some sense of sanity and order to those pursuing the illusion of the American Dream, but it won’t alter global civilization’s current trajectory toward an increasingly chaotic world of never-ending disasters. The synergistic effects of biodiversity collapse, climate change, and industrial pollution will act as a growing weight on the economy.
We just learned that Greenland’s ice sheets crossed a tipping point two decades ago and will never recover, as far as human timescales are concerned. Nothing will bring them back except another ice age, and humans have managed to erase the next one scheduled to have occurred some 50,000 years hence. 100,000 years will have past before the planet completely rids itself of the CO2 humans have loaded into the atmosphere. Second only to Antarctica in terms of ice volume, Greenland’s melt-off could eventually contribute 23 feet of global sea level rise. Antarctica’s ice sheets have also been found to be much more vulnerable to collapse than previously known, as rising atmospheric temperatures melt their surface and a warming ocean destabilizes them from below. Coastal erosion, flooding, and soil salinization from sea level rise are growing drags on the economy. About 40% of the global population lives near the coast and will account for the largest mass migration in human history. Indeed, billions of U.S. tax dollars are now being used in a new strategy to relocate entire neighborhoods from coastal regions persistently hit by flooding in recent years.
With the meltdown of the Earth’s cryosphere, we are witnessing a large-scale catastrophic disruption to a critical part of the Earth system under which all life has adapted. In particular, the relatively stable climate of the Holocene is what allowed for the development of agriculture and human civilization. We no longer live in that era; We have entered the chaos of the Anthropocene, a time of deadly climate disruption, social upheaval, mass extinction, and ultimately collapse of industrial civilization. With arctic amplification weakening jet streams, larger and more intense heat domes now form over geographic regions to help spark megafires, power grid blackouts, and heat-related deaths. In Phoenix AZ, a heatwave just obliterated a previous record of most days over 110°F (50 plus), and another record-breaking heatwave is on its way as I speak. California’s Death Valley just recorded the highest temperature on Earth since reliable records began. The six most recent years (2014-2019) and 2020 have been the hottest ever recorded, with each decade since 1980 being hotter than the previous.
The recent heatwave that thawed Siberia’s tundra, set it on fire, and caused an ecological disaster by collapsing a diesel fuel reservoir, could never have happened without the massive spike in CO2 emissions from mankind’s fossil-fuel binge. Summer wildfires in the Arctic set a record this year, emitting 34% more CO2 than in the prior year. Fires in the Amazon jungle are the worst in a decade. Wildfires in Arizona this year have already scarred more land than in the prior two years. Colorado just logged the biggest fire in its history and California’s wildfires are already on track to break records even though the fire season has just begun. Globally, wildfires have increased 13% over the prior record-breaking year of 2019. A more apt name for the Anthropocene might be the Pyrocene – Age of Fire.
Heatwaves aren’t just striking on land; they are also cooking the oceans. Increasingly severe and frequent marine heatwaves(MHWs) have surged by more than 50% in recent decades. Warming oceans help create more destructive and more frequent hurricanes and typhoons. They also threaten biodiversity and ecosystem function on a global scale. Scientists have observed that stony corals around the world are hunkering down into survival mode, exhibiting the same traits as they did prior to the last great extinction. Let that sink in for a moment…Yes, a relatively primitive organism with a rudimentary nervous system is actually preparing for a mass extinction while the so-called ‘Wise Ape’ blissfully carries on destroying his very own life-support systems.
“It was incredibly spooky to witness how corals are now exhibiting the same traits as they did at the last major extinction event,” said Professor David Gruber, a researcher and marine biologist with The Graduate Center, CUNY and Baruch College. “Corals seem to be preparing to jump across an extinction boundary, while we are putting our foot further on the pedal.”
Apparently, coral are not hampered by politics in their decision-making processes. These creatures of the primordial seas will likely outsurvive the Self-Absorbed Ape who has insulated himself in a technological cocoon of false security, oblivious to the harsh physical laws of nature indifferently working to take him down. Hell, scientists are now finding microplastics in every human tissue they examine, and the health effects are unknown. How’s that for forethought?
Scientists can issue warnings about our impending demise until they are blue in the face, and they have, but they and the public are at the mercy of economic, financial, and political forces beyond anyone’s power. Couple that with the fact that the average person on the street has a Trump-level of comprehension about these existential crises and is being bombarded on social media by fake news that plays on emotions and deep-rooted inter-group distrust. Cheap energy and the individualistic consumer culture have created an illusion of abundance and destroyed any sort of communal cooperation which was once the basis of everyday life. I’ve walked this Earth for over five decades and have seen a steady and continuous degradation of the natural world; corporate greenwashing is rampant. The growth in ‘green energy’ has not displaced fossil fuel fuel consumption to any great degree; fossil fuels still supply 84% of global energy consumption. Worse yet, just to maintain our current growth in energy consumption would require an unattainable expansion in alternative energies. If one connects all the dots on our current state, then there is no refuting this most clear-eyed of scientific assessments:
“Given the momentum in both the Earth and human systems, and the growing difference between the ‘reaction time’ needed to steer humanity towards a more sustainable future, and the ‘intervention time’ left to avert a range of catastrophes in both the physical climate system (e.g., melting of Arctic sea ice) and the biosphere (e.g., loss of the Great Barrier Reef), we are already deep into the trajectory towards collapse.”
The end of the world is the ‘cha-ching’ of a cash register as the last vestiges of nature are converted to dollars. Lest we forget, 71% of global emissions come from just 100 companies and more than half of global industrial emissions since 1988 originated from 25 corporate and state-owned entities. While the ultra-wealthy reap the profits of a poisoned ecology, the rest of the world is left to take the brunt of consequences from a world that grows more dangerous by the day. Those living on the edge who lost their livelihood during this pandemic are the collateral damage of an out-of-control socio-economic system whose incompatibility with life on Earth becomes more evident with each passing year. There’s nowhere to escape for most people because, to one degree or another, we are all entrapped in this system. The immutable laws of biology, physics, and chemistry have set an expiration date on America’s non-negotiable way of life, ensuring that many more will soon fall victim to the short-term greed of capitalism. As Stephen Hawking warned, “Stupidity and greed will kill off humans.”
I think that my future work will be to learn how to die well. Whether we are wrong (no way) or right (99% confidence) about the ultimate effects of AGW, the financial system, peak affordable FF, etc. we all die.
How does one love more, be more patient with friends and family, and self actualize more? Ultimately, that is all anyone has, all anyone has ever had, so the answer to the question is of paramount importance.
That is the best advice anyone could give.
mike k said:
Thanks Pintada. Your stance is exactly mine now also. Our own path to deliverance from this dying culture is our final legacy and artistry. our last chance to create an island of sanity, however small. To shake our fist in the face of mankind’s madness, and say that it cannot take away my power to choose love over hate and despair.
David Higham said:
Is ‘saltification’ a word ? I think it should be ‘soil salinization’. A typo you might want to fix: ‘self-absorbed’ (a few lines above the monkey cartoon)
Well summarized. I hope you are faring well.Mike.
David Higham said:
I just checked. ‘Salification’ and ‘Salinization’ ,yes. Not ‘Saltification’.
NO, it’s ‘Saltification’. I did not check. Checking & correcting is for assholes. it’s ‘Saltification’ because I fucking say it is. it’s ‘Saltification’.
Fixed, although saltification is the same thing, but not a term used as often.
Your existence depends upon your microscopic cells releasing energy from covalent bonds (animal and plant bodies) and funneling it into your behavior and structure. You, as a mega-sized tech RNA occupying mega-sized cells, do the same, release energy from covalent fossil fuel bonds and funnel it into tech behavior and structure. I’m sure you’re not aware of what you are doing, people are born into this self-organizing system and just want to get wealth and power which is the reason your little cells made you as you are. It’s always helped with survival to be a little competitive and greedy. But not with the new tools from technology, the endless competition for supremacy only ends in collapse. It would only have been half as bad if we had applied the tools to eating fossil fuels exclusively, but the essential human RNA cannot directly eat fossil fuels and has by necessity turned the tech tools (powered by fossil fuels) to eating the ecosystem on a massive scale. Growth is good, right?
I hate to think humans are conscious and pursuing this suicidal course while knowing of the outcome. It’s more likely they are unconscious or perhaps insane.
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BLCKDGRD (@BLCKDGRD) said:
Very glad to see you writing here again
Excellent article, as always. Thank you for writing it. Here’s a pingback in Russian: https://www.aum.news/ecology/6984-epoha-unichtozheniya-ili-dobro-pozhalovat-v-haos
This could be slightly depressing but the voices in my head seemed to enjoy it.
If I take myself seriously will that make everything better? 😉
I’m working on a book to be released after collapse -“Cannibalism for Dummies”
David Higham said:
Steve Keen thrrows a well-deserved hand grenade at Nordhaus.
Some might call it a reality blivet. 😉
Damn! They are back.
The voices in my head have called a committee meeting. We questioned 100s of witnesses & have come to a unanimous solution to stop collapse.
If the Clever Ape can increase its population to over 8,000,000,000 by 2021, all their problems will be solved. Everyone knows that unlimited growth on a finite planet will take us to nirvana.
Hope everyone can attend the celebrations where I will be showered with awards, commendations & honors for saving Apekind.
Maybe Bill Hicks had a point,”Your children aren’t special.” They are the problem? Too bad their parents & their parents’ parents weren’t told in advance.
Don’t shoot the messenger & waste the bullet, cut his throat! You can wash the knife & use it on the next one. 😉
False Progress said:
“The growth in ‘green energy’ has not displaced fossil fuel fuel consumption to any great degree….”
Indeed, wind (and more subtly, solar) power has mostly just replaced scenery and wildlife living among the lands it’s built on. It’s a growing aesthetic and ecological tragedy branded as progress. Blight for naught in the end.
I lost respect for both (colluding) political parties when I first saw vast arrays of wind turbines in previously-traveled open landscapes throughout the West. Were the environmentalists who support these new invasions ever sincere?
terry gerych said:
did u watch the new documentary on the folly of ‘green energy’, PLANET OF THE HUMANS? it’s excellent in pointing out how dependent on fossil fuels and how environmentally destructive so-called ‘renewables’ are.
More than 140 characters.
Hope it is not a waste of one’s time.
mike k said:
Excellent piece Mike. Thanks for your dedication to the truth, and to the project of generating love for all. Your work is inspiring for those of us aware of the terminal darkening of humanity. Fellowship and sharing is very important for us “doomers”. A label I wear gratefully in our superficial society wasting it’s precious time remaining in denial of the great matters that should be demanding our constant attention.
mike k said:
We must awaken the passion that lies lulled to sleep within us. “Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, Rage against the dying of the Light!”
Our poets touch the vibrant heart of life, beyond the dry pronouncements of scholars and soulless scientific materialists. Feel the outrage that is being wreaked on the human spirit, and Revolt!