In Defense of Our Misanthropy

There’s a difference between hate and disdain. It may be subtle, but not imperceptible. The word “hate” conjures up images of one wanting to see someone or something die a slow, painful death; but you can disdain something and simply want it to go away and leave others alone.

After learning of the works of the late natural history author John A. Livingston through a comment from reader Rosemary Lowe to my 2013 blog post entitled, “The Roots of My Misanthropy,” I finally found a used copy of the out of print book, One Cosmic Instant: Man’s Fleeting Supremacy.

From the opening pages, I was taken aback by how much Livingston’s attitude towards mankind reflected my own. Here’s a quote from one of his chapters on evolution:

“To regard the present condition—a monoculture of one dominant species of large mammal—as the inevitable result of a ‘master plan’ is to reveal ignorance and insensitivity. Like other hyper-specializations, the arrogant human brain will eventually be dealt with.”

In some circles, Livingston might be regarded as a touch misanthropic (or worse), but it’s clear to me that his disdain for humanity stems from a deep love for non-human nature. The problem with people pigeonholing essential words like misanthropy is they tend to oversimplify it as an unfounded hate, rather than a justifiable disdain.

In my earlier post, “The Roots of My Misanthropy,” (one of several on the subject) I stated:

“My misanthropy is not aimed at individuals per se, but at an entire misguided species of animal with an arrogance so all-consuming that it views itself as separate—and above—the rest of the animal kingdom.”

(While at the same time destroying habitats, sparking a mass extinction and changing the very climate that once made this a wondrous planet—ultimately to render it uninhabitable.)

“It’s not like humans can’t afford a little resentment once in a while, there are entire religions built specifically on the worship of mankind and its father figure—the maker made in the image of man. But sometimes someone needs to step back and see this species in perspective…

“Ever since hominids first climbed down out of the trees and started clubbing their fellow animals, humanoids have been on a mission to claim the planet as their own. No other species could ever live up to man’s over-inflated self-image; therefore they became meat. Or, if not meat, a servant or slave in one way or another.  If their flesh isn’t considered tasty, they’re put to use as beasts of burden, held captive for amusement, or as literal guinea pigs to test drugs and torturous procedures for the perpetual prolongation of human life. Those who don’t prove themselves useful are deemed ‘pests’ and slated for eradication.”

And on this same topic, guest-blogger for “Those Vegan Hedonists: A Veganism, Spirituality, and Philosophy Blog,” Kimberly Steele wrote, “If there is an afterlife for me, it will be the ecstasy for a brief second before my brain dies of never having to come back to our doomed planet or our stupid race; an instant of knowing I loved my fellow animals and lived every day like I meant it.”

To further prove that I’m not just a hateful curmudgeon, here’s what I blogged on August 14, 2014 in a post entitled,  “Save the Earth, Pray for a Pandemic”:

“I don’t mean to sound like some hateful misanthrope who wants to see humanity suffer for all its crimes against the environment. Rather, my misanthropy stems from a profound love of nature and a will to save non-humans from the cruelty and exploitation they’re routinely subjected to by the one species fully capable of causing a mass extinction. Indeed, the species Homo sapiens is currently in the process of putting an end to the most biologically diverse period the Earth has ever known—the Age of Mammals, a class which the human race must reluctantly finds itself included in.

“Being nothing more than mere mammals themselves, humans are ultimately at the mercy of Mother Nature’s self-preserving tactics. And what better way to reign in an errant child than with a major global pandemic that takes down only humans? Let’s face it; humans are never going to reverse the ill-effects of climate change willingly. Oh, world leaders sometimes give it lip service, but they almost never mention the parallel scourge of overpopulation. It seems it’s hard to be “green” and keep 7,185,322,300 (as of this writing) people fed, clothed, sheltered and transported in the manner they’re currently accustomed to.

“If people want to come out of this alive, they’re going to have to make some serious lifestyle changes. That means no more oil-dependent cars, trains, jet airplanes, no more Walmarts full of plastic trinkets built with coal power in Chinese factories, then sent overseas in gargantuan container ships. No offshore oil wells, no fracking, no tar sands pipelines; no freeways, no commuter traffic, no immensely-popular sporting events selling factory-farmed hot dogs by the billions. No people by the billions, for that matter. No more breeding until humans have figured out how to live alongside the rest of the Earth’s inhabitants without wiping them out or making slaves out of them.

“No more! Starting right now! No false-starts or baby steps. Time to change or be changed!

“It’s not just the politicians who lack the will to do what it will take to soften the blow of climate change. But while humans debate their role in causing relatively dependable weather systems to go topsy-turvy worldwide, Nature is poised to unleash a pandemic or two from her bag of tricks and take care of the human problem herself. I’m not talking about Ebola, that’s too slow and nasty.

“When Nature gets serious, I’m hoping it’ll be quick and painless for all.  By the time humans know what hit ‘em, there’ll be no one left to test the experimental vaccine on the animals, who’ll be too busy inheriting the Earth anyway.”

Hate or disdain, who but an optimist could see the upside of a major pandemic after all?

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15 Species Just Won’t Make it Unless We Act Now

http://www.natureworldnews.com/articles/13628/20150322/15-species-wont-make-unless-act-now.htm

Mar 22, 2015 11:27 PM EDT

pocket gopher

(Photo : Wiki CC0 – Chuck Abbe)

Researchers have recently released a paper that details 15 of the most critically endangered species on Earth – organisms that not only are facing what looks to be inevitable extinctions, but are barely receiving any aid to stop it. Now conservationists are calling for the money and expertise that would be needed to help these creatures – ranging from seabirds to tropical gophers – survive.

A study recently published in the journal Current Biology details how a whopping 841 endangered species can still be saved from extinction if countries and organizations commit an estimated net value of $1.3 billion dollars annually towards their safety. However, for 15 of the species highlighted in the report, their chance of conservation success is dropping by the minute.

“Conservation opportunity evaluations like ours show the urgency of implementing management actions before it is too late,” Dalia A. Conde, the lead author of the study and Assistant Professor at the Max-Planck Odense Center at the University of Southern Denmark, explained in a recent statement. “However, it is imperative to rationally determine actions for species that we found to have the lowest chances of successful habitat and zoo conservation actions.”

So just what are these 15 species in trouble? Nearly half the list includes amphibians, and that’s something that shouldn’t be too surprising given that this class of creatures is battling a war on two fronts. (Scroll to read on…)

The Brazilian frog Physalaemus soaresi is one of the most critically endangered species in the world, as the great majority of its natural habitat has been converted into eucalyptus plantations.

(Photo : Ivan Sazima) The Brazilian frog Physalaemus soaresi is one of the most critically endangered species in the world, as the great majority of its natural habitat has been converted into eucalyptus plantations.

As things stand, a deadly fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) continues to spread and wipe out frog species from the face of the Earth in places like Brazil and Spain. A variant of it (Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans) has even started to affect salamanders around the globe.

Meanwhile, the habitats that these creatures rely on are shrinking and changing in the wake of climate change and human influence. Salamanders are even shrinking, as they increasingly struggle to live in suddenly dry and warming climes.

Six of the 15 species listed also happen to be birds. This, too, is partially a consequence of climate change, where churning air currents and shrinking habitats are leaving migratory species with smaller rest stops and fewer food supplies. Even species who do not travel far are left to compete with invaders, pollution, and, most commonly, deforestation. The Tahiti monarch (Pomarea nigra), for instance, is estimated to total less than 50 in the wild, as livestock pastures are expanding at the cost of forest habitat. (Scroll to read on…)

The Amsterdam albatross - one of the most critically endangered birds in the world - boasts a population that hovers somewhere around 130 birds with only 25 known breeding pairs.

(Photo : Vincent Legendre) The Amsterdam albatross – one of the most critically endangered birds in the world – boasts a population that hovers somewhere around 130 birds with only 25 known breeding pairs.

Most interestingly, three mammal species are threatened, consisting of the Mount Lefo brush-furred mouse (Lophuromys eisentrauti) in Cameroon, the Chiapan climbing rat (Tylomys bullaris) in Mexico, and the tropical pocket gopher (Geomys tropicalis) along the Mexican and Central American coast.

Shrinking habitats are threatening all three, but the reasons vary from urbanization, to human conflict, to costly habitat protection. Some can’t even be reintroduced into the wild through a captive breeding system, as the expertise to raise them is too rare or costly in undeveloped worlds.

That’s why an international effort world be worth it, according to the study. The researchers determined that the total cost to conserve the 841 animal species in their natural habitats was calculated to be more than $1 billion (USD) per year. The estimated annual cost for complementary management in zoos was $160 million.

“Although the cost seems high, safeguarding these species is essential if we want to reduce the extinction rate by 2020,” added Hugh Possingham from The University of Queensland. “When compared to global government spending on other sectors – e.g., US defense spending, which is more than 500 times greater -, an investment in protecting high biodiversity value sites is minor.”

And most encouragingly of all, the researchers found that if these species get the funding they need, 39 percent of them could potentially be pulled out of their endangered status, given their high number of conservation opportunities.

That’s not the case for the most threatened 15, but even for those the researchers argue that taking “an integrated approach” could save them...

Breeding Ourselves To Extinction

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http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/11/19/breeding-ourselves-to-extinction/

November 19, 2014

Overpopulation Fuels Climate Change

Breeding Ourselves To Extinction

by DADY CHERY & GILBERT MERCIER

The United Nations has held countless major meetings on climate change, at great consumption of fuel, that have amounted to nothing but reports and promises of more talk. After many of these alarming reports, the G20 leaders, in November 2014, decided to throw several billions of dollars at the problem. Despite climate-change denial becoming incorrect, as long as a discussion of overpopulation, in the context of climate-change mitigation, remains a taboo, we may be sure that nothing will be achieved. If we are serious about reducing our carbon footprint, we must rethink the flawed capitalist concept of unending economic growth and consider reducing the number of human feet in the world. Overpopulation must be discussed in the context of climate change. A major impediment to this discussion has been the assumption that Africa and Asia would be the main targets for depopulation, with eugenics intent towards “black and brown babies.” In reality, there are too many human babies of all kinds: especially in industrialized countries with high rates of consumption.

A Time Bomb on a Short Fuse

Earth’s current human population is 7.27 billion and it is increasing at a rate of more than one per second: so fast that this will make you dizzy. By the middle of any given day, for example, there are about 205,000 thousand births, compared to 84,000 thousand deaths. Superficially, Asia and Africa are the most populous continents in the world, with the 10 most populated countries being China, India, the United States, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Russia and Japan. On the other hand, if we consider the human impact on greenhouse-gas emissions, the most heavily industrialized countries contribute more per capita to the burden of overpopulation on climate change. Specifically, in 2012, China, the United States, and the European Union alone contributed about 56 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fuels: 29 percent from China, 16 percent from the US, and 11 percent from the EU. India and Russia were a distant fourth and fifth, at respectively, six and five percent. The rest of the entire world only contributed 33 percent of the total carbon emission! This includes all of Africa, South and Central America, Australia, and all the less industrialized countries of Asia.

According to Paul and Ann Ehrlich, who sounded the alarm about overpopulation several decades ago and have analyzed it for many years, “our species’ negative impact on our own life-support systems can be approximated by the equation: I = P x A x T.” In this equation, I, the impact of a population is equal to its size (P),  multiplied by the per-capita consumption (A), and finally also multiplied by the energy use (T) for the technologies to drive that consumption. By this analysis, the US is by far the most overpopulated country on the planet. The rapid growth in consumption by China and India, and the global aspiration to follow the US’ footsteps are terrifying and should have dire consequences within 25 years.

The Catastrophic Scenario of Eating Oil

The human population should have crashed from famine in the 1970s but was rescued by modern science. In particular, Norman Borlaug’s green revolution allowed our consumption of food to rely more and more on fossil fuels than on solar energy. We have come to depend on industrial fertilizers that require vast amounts of oil for their production, plus a heavily mechanized agricultural industry that also consumes large quantities of hydrocarbons. Indeed, for many years, the patterns of food, fertilizer, and oil prices over time have been superimposable. Today we can say with confidence, for example, that it takes three quarters of a gallon of oil to produce a pound of beef. Consequently, the idea of cheap oil has become regarded as a guarantee of affordable food. There are three problems with this notion: for one, oil is a finite resource; secondly, in a vicious cycle, cheap and abundant oil will, at best, postpone the inevitable human population crash to a much higher population; and finally, all the oil will eventually wind up in the atmosphere as CO2.

According to a November 2014 report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) that projects the state of the planet and its energy resources to 2040, humans will not have to face a shortage of energy. The IEA projects, that by 2040, the world will consume greenhouse-contributing energy like oil, gas and coal, compared with so-called green energy like wind, solar, and nuclear, in a 1:1 ratio. A world-wide expansion of fracking is expected to keep carbon energy cheap and plentiful. This fact plus a projected two-billion-people increase on Earth mean that energy consumption would increase by 37 percent by 2040. This rate of growth and consumption implies a rapid increase of greenhouse-gas emissions, which in turn translates into a 3.6-degree Celsius global warming by the year 2100. This, according to the IEA report, is a “catastrophic scenario.”

Breeding Ourselves to Extinction

About 20 years ago, when the human population was 5.7 billion, our species was already consuming 40 percent of the Earth’s primary productivity. In other words, 40 percent of the total solar energy converted to organic matter was being consumed by a single species. We are quickly approaching a tipping point in the planet’s sixth mass-extinction event, attributable to human folly. The planet simply cannot accommodate another human doubling. Whether or not there is sufficient hydrocarbon to permit such a doubling, it will be prevented by the ravages of climate-change events, such as floods, hurricanes and droughts due to global warming, by famines due to the disappearance of key members of our ecology like the bats and honeybees, and by infectious diseases, like Ebola, from human infringement on the habitats of other animals. Our runaway overpopulation, overconsumption, and our obsession with economic growth are carving a sure path to collective suicide.

Procreation is still viewed as a being blessing and accomplishment, although this is an obsolete notion from an era when many hands were needed on a farm, and life expectancy was short, especially for women (many of whom died in childbirth) and young children. In an overpopulated world, parenthood is an act of self indulgence: the ultimate act of selfishness against the society at large and even toward the children themselves, who are being delivered to a world in crisis. So far, the only country that has seriously tried to control its population has been China. For the 35 years from 1979 to 2014, China’s unpopular one-child policy helped to avert a population growth of more than 400 million. More recently, China’s capitalist ambitions to grow a domestic market for its goods have led it to relax this policy to allow two children per couple if either parent is an only child.

Population control policy is needed globally and can be achieved without coercion. In most industrialized countries, parenthood currently comes with substantial tax breaks and an assortment of benefits. This must end. Instead, parenthood should be heavily taxed in proportion to the number of children, and adults without children should be those to receive tax breaks. The notion that children are a burden to the community at large — and not a blessing — must become part of the discourse. Ultimately, this should become incorporated in the culture to such a degree that the sight of a mother or father with three or four children will become obscene. To have any future as a species, our population needs to drop, as does our consumption. We must challenge capitalism and adopt a degrowth model. If we are to make any progress on mitigation of climate change, we must urgently address the problem of overpopulation.

…and the Grasshoppers Inherit the Earth

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Those who are still harboring fantasies about a time of peace and harmony, sustainability, or inherent respect for nature in human kind’s pre-Columbian past should read, Constant Battles, by Steven A. LeBlanc, which explodes the myths about the peaceful, noble savage and the notion of early conservation ethics.

Here’s an excerpt from that book’s chapter, “Enter Conflict:”

“What sets humans apart from almost all other animals is their ability to take resources from other groups, by group action. A large male bear can chase other bears from the best fishing spot along the river, and a male lion can defend its pride’s territory from other lions, but humans developed this process much further. They can cooperatively take over the territory or resources of another group—either by killing them off or driving them from the resources. Such aggression is not without risk, but it is achievable. The ability to engage in social cooperation sets up a dynamic among population growth, carrying capacity, and the potential for conflict.

“Not only are human societies never alone, but regardless of how well they control their own population or act ecologically, they cannot control their neighbors’ behavior. Each society must confront the real possibility that its neighbors will not live in ecological balance but will grow its numbers and attempt to take the resources from nearby groups. Not only have societies always lived in a changing environment, but they always have neighbors. The best way to survive in such a milieu is not to live in ecological balance with slow growth, but to grow rapidly and be able to fend off competitors as well as to take resources from others.

“To see how this most human dynamic works, imagine an extremely simple world with only two societies and no unoccupied land. Under normal conditions, neither group would have much motivation to take resources from the other. People may be somewhat hungry, but not hungry enough to risk getting killed to eat a little better. A few members of either group may die indirectly from food shortages—via disease or infant mortality for example—but from an individual’s perspective, he or she is much more likely to be killed trying to take food from the neighbors than from the usual provisioning shortfalls. Such a constant world would never last for long. Populations would grow and human activity would degrade the land or resources, reducing their abundance. Even if, by sheer luck, all things remained equal, it must be remembered that the climate would never be constant: times of food stress occur because of changes in the weather, especially over the course of several generations. When a very bad year or series of years occurs, the willingness to risk a fight increases because the likelihood of starving goes up.      …

“Now comes the most important part of this overly simplified story: The group with the larger population always has the advantage in any competition over resources, whatever those resources may be. Over the course of human history, one side has rarely had better weapons or tactics for any length of time, and most such warfare between smaller societies is attritional. With equal skills and weapons, each side would be expected to kill an equal number of its opponents. Over time, the larger group will finally overwhelm the smaller one. This advantage of size is well recognized by humans all over the world, and they go to great lengths to keep their numbers comparable to their potential enemies. This is observed anthropologically by the universal desire to have many allies, and the common tactic of smaller groups inviting other societies to join them, even in times of food stress.

“Assume for a moment that by some miracle one of our two groups is full of farsighted, ecological geniuses. They are able to keep their population in check and, moreover, keep it far enough below the carrying capacity that minor changes in the weather, or even longer term changes in the climate, do not resort in food stress. If they need to consume only half of what is available each year, even if there is a terrible year, this group will probably come through the hardship just fine. More important, when a few good years come along, these masterfully ecological people will not grow rapidly, because to do so would mean that they would have trouble when the good times end. Think of them as the ecological equivalent of the industrious ants.

“The second group, on the other hand, is just the opposite—it consists of ecological dimwits. They have no wonderful process available to control their population. They are forever on the edge of carrying capacity, they reproduce with abandon, and they frequently suffer food shortages and the inevitable consequences. Think of this bunch as the ecological equivalent of the care-free grasshoppers. When the good years come, they have more children and grow their population rapidly. Twenty years later, they have doubled their numbers and quickly run out of food at the first minor change in the weather. Of course, had this been a group of “noble savages” who eschewed warfare, they would have starved to death and only a much smaller and more sustainable group survived. This is not a bunch of noble savages; these are ecological dimwits and they attack their good neighbors in order to save their own skins. Since they now outnumber their good neighbors two to one, the dimwits prevail after heavy attrition on both sides. The “good” ants turn out to be dead ants, and the “bad” grasshoppers inherit the earth.

“The moral of this fable is that if any group can get itself into ecological balance and stabilize its population even in the face of environmental change, it will be tremendously disadvantaged against societies that do not behave that way.” The long-term successful society, in a world with many different societies, will be the one that grows when it can and fights when it runs out of resources. It is useless to live an ecologically sustainable existence in the “Garden of Eden” unless the neighbors do so as well.”

As Climate Disruption Advances, 26 Percent of Mammals Face Extinction

Tuesday, 06 January 2015 09:33
Written by 
Dahr Jamail By Dahr Jamail,

Excerpts from a Truthout report found here: http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/28372-as-climate-disruption-advances-26-percent-of-mammals-face-extinction

Two recently released studies brought bad news for those living near coastlines around the world. One published in the peer-reviewed Nature Climate Change, the other in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the studies showed that existing10264634_10152337495904586_9174164310757903244_n computer models might have severely underestimated the risk to the Greenland ice sheet from warming global temperatures.

Bear in mind that if Greenland’s entire ice sheet melts, 20 feet would be added to global sea levels.  …..

Warming temperatures in the Arctic are causing shifts in the gene pool of animals: Scientists are reporting an increasing likelihood of “grolar bears,” which are a cross between grizzly and polar bears. According to scientists, this would bring deleterious consequences, given that “genetic incompatibilities in hybrids will erase traits crucial to the long-term survival of both parent species.” They warn that if that happens, “then we can expect a great reduction in those populations, and possibly extinctions.”  …

tropical deforestation, caused by both ACD and logging, could cause “significant and widespread” shifts in rainfall distribution and temperatures, which will affect agriculture far and wide.

Pine bark beetle infestations, which are exploding across vast swaths of North America, are now happening as far south as Tucson, Arizona, where pine trees are now dropping like flies.

California’s ongoing drought is having profound impacts on wildlife: Animals like squirrels, deer and bear are fleeing their homes and even risking their lives to search for food sources that have been dramatically diminished.

Another recent study showed that ACD-related habitat loss is now a threat to 314 more species of birds, whose numbers are already in decline. …

As storms continue to intensify, the Philippines’ climate chief warned recently that his country lacks the systems necessary to cope with the worsening impacts of ACD. The Philippines was recently hammered by yet another massive typhoon.

In Australia, Sydney and its surrounding region can expect an increasing number of hot days, shifting rainfall patterns and more extreme fire danger as a result of ACD, according to recently published high-resolution modeling of the future climate there.

A recently published study revealed that deadly cholera outbreaks are almost certain to increase in the more vulnerable regions of the world due to ACD, since severe heat waves and more frequent and intense flooding are on the rise.

Lastly in this section, another recent study showed that the Amazonian peatlands store approximately 10 times the amount of carbon as do undisturbed rainforests in adjacent areas, which makes them all the more critical in efforts to mitigate ACD. The areas in question are already mostly unprotected, and the deforestation there would result in “massive carbon emissions,” according to the report.

deadly heat waves in Europe are now 10 times more likely than they were just a decade ago. This is troubling news, given that during the summer of 2003 when temperatures soared to over 100 degrees throughout Western Europe, more than 35,000 people were killed – and that was the most intense heat the continent had seen in over 500 years.

As the planet goes, so goes Europe. A recent study by three independent teams of climate scientists has tied that continent’s record-breaking heat of 2014 directly to ACD. The report also showed that record-breaking years are now 35 to 80 times more likely, again thanks to ACD.

Extremes of both hot and cold temperatures across the planet are increasing faster than previously believed.

Indeed, recently released research shows that extremes of both hot and cold temperatures across the planet are increasing faster than previously believed… the Arctic is continuing to warm faster than the rest of the planet, as annual average temperatures there have continued to heat up twice as fast as the rest of the globe.

Two recent studies revealed that millions of abandoned oil and gas wells spanning the United States are likely releasing a “significant quantity” of methane into the atmosphere, which is not being included in total Environmental Protection Agency emission counts.

Lastly and perhaps most distressing in this section, new modeling revealed how warming ocean waters could well already be triggering massive methane leaks off the Pacific Northwest Coast, where 4 million tons of the potent greenhouse gas have already been released since 1970.  …

…and Nature magazine has sounded the alarm that a staggering 41 percent of all amphibians on the planet now face extinction, and 26 percent of mammals and 13 percent of birds face the same threat. …

Are humans to blame for the mammoth’s demise? Hunting caused numbers to plunge 30,000 years ago, study claims

  • Researchers in Germany have found that hunting significantly depleted mammoth populations in Western Europe around 30,000 years ago
  • They studied the bones of mammoths, horses and reindeer
  • Analysing isotopes ruled out climate change as a cause of population cuts
  • All but a few isolated populations died out 20,000 to 10,000 years ago 

They found that woolly mammoth numbers declined, but that climate conditions as well as food and water supplies for the giant herbivores remained stable.

The woolly cousins of modern elephants roamed northern Eurasia and North America beginning 300,000 years ago, but some 10,000 to 20,000 years ago, all but a few of the isolated island populations disappeared. 

By studying bones, researchers found that numbers of woolly mammoths declined, but that climate conditions as well as food and water supplies for the giant herbivores remained stable, indicating that hunting is the main cause. A depiction of a hunting party using a pitfall trap is shown

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2945630/Are-humans-blame-mammoth-s-demise-Hunting-caused-numbers-plunge-30-000-years-ago-study-claims.html#ixzz3RMczSqj6
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Tuesday Is Soylent Green Day Again

Last night I watched the timeless 1973 movie, Soylent Green, again and was again impressed (unfavorably) by how much the futuristic world that it depicted mirrored the world we’re headed for now. The temperature of the overcrowded New York of the future was a constant 90 degrees; the oceans were dying (presumably from overfishing and pollution, they hadn’t heard of acidification at the time); and the world was running out of food..

Spoiler Alert:

Set in 2022, the film opens with a slide show of earlier eras, back when the Earth was covered with forests and open fields, and there were only a few scattered settlements of people who travelled in horse-drawn wagons.

As the images pass quickly by, we see the first automobiles (tail pipes spewing toxic climate-changing carbon gases), followed by a massive blacktop parking lot jam packed with Model Ts. The pictures begin to flash almost more rapidly than we can focus, but we catch glimpses of factories with smokestacks billowing and crowds of people barely able to

move without trampling one another. (Come to think of it, what we are witnessing looks a lot like the inside of an average modern-day poultry barn, where chickens and turkeys are forced to live out their lives in intense confinement.)

The first scene of action takes place in a cramped little New York City apartment, the dwelling of the film’s two main characters, Thorn, a semi-corrupt detective, and his elderly room-mate and research partner, Sol, who is constantly going on about the good old days—a world that Thorn can’t possibly envision or relate to.

They are among the lucky few; most people sleep on the stairways or in the hallways or anywhere they can find shelter from the oppressive heat caused by an out of control greenhouse effect. We overhear a program on their worn out old TV which is an interview with the governor of New York, touting a new food product called “Soylent Green,” ostensibly made from the ocean’s plankton. (Everyone in that day and age knows that the land is used up, but they’re told the oceans can still provide for them).

Food in this depressing, human-ravaged world comes in the form of color-coded wafers, distributed under strict government supervision. Hordes of people stand in line for their ration of Soylent yellow or blue made from soy, or other high protein plants grown behind the fortress-walls of heavily guarded farms.

Signs remind the throng that “Tuesday is Soylent Green day.”

The multitudes are exceptionally unruly on Tuesday. Brimming with anticipation, they can’t wait to obtain a ration of the special new product. When the food distributors run out of soylent green, people start rioting and things get out of hand. “Scoops” (garbage trucks fitted with backhoe-like buckets on the front) are called in to scrape up the angry masses and haul them off…

By the end of the film, Thorn learns that the oceans are dead and the actual ingredients of Soylent Green are something a bit harder to stomach than plankton. In the final scene, a mortally-wounded Thorn is carried away on a stretcher as he desperately tries to tell bewildered onlookers, “Soylent Green is People!” “They’re making our food out of people. Next thing, they’ll be breeding us like cattle for food!”

Could it ever happen? Could the human race ever stoop so low? If the scenario seems too hard to swallow­, consider this: the conditions animals are forced to endure on today’s factory farms would have seemed unimaginable to people living a hundred years ago.

Are Humans Going Extinct?

Monday, 01 December 2014 09:45
Written by 
Dahr Jamail By Dahr Jamail, Truthout | Interview

Some scientists, Guy McPherson included, fear that climate disruption is so serious, with so many self-reinforcing feedback loops already in play, that humans are in the process of causing our own extinction.

August, September and October were each the hottest months ever recorded, respectively. Including this year, which is on track to become the hottest year ever recorded, 13 of the hottest years on record have all occurred in the last 16 years.

To see more stories like this, visit “Planet or Profit?”

Coal will likely overtake oil as the dominant energy source by 2017, and without a major shift away from coal, average global temperatures could rise by 6 degrees Celsius by 2050, leading to devastating climate change.

“Across two decades and thousands of pages of reports, the world’s most authoritative voice on climate science has consistently understated the rate and intensity of climate change and the danger those impacts represent.”

This is dramatically worse than even the most dire predictions from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which predicts at least a 5-degree Celsius increase by 2100 as its worst-case scenario, if business continues as usual with no major mitigation efforts.

Yet things continue growing worse faster than even the IPCC can keep up with.

Scientific American has said of the IPCC: “Across two decades and thousands of pages of reports, the world’s most authoritative voice on climate science has consistently understated the rate and intensity of climate change and the danger those impacts represent.”

And there is nothing to indicate, in the political or corporate world, that there will be anything like a major shift in policy aimed at dramatically mitigating runaway anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD).

Guy McPherson is a professor emeritus of natural resources, and ecology and evolutionary biology, with the University of Arizona, who has been studying ACD for nearly 30 years.

Near-term human extinction could eventually result from losing the Arctic sea ice, which is one of the 40 self-reinforcing feedback loops of ACD.

His blog Nature Bats Last has developed a large readership that continues to grow, and for six years McPherson has been traveling around the world giving lectures about a topic that, even for the initiated, is both shocking and controversial: the possibility of near-term human extinction due to runaway ACD.

As McPherson has told Truthout: “We’ve never been here as a species, and the implications are truly dire and profound for our species and the rest of the living planet.” He told Truthout that he believes that near-term human extinction could eventually result from losing the Arctic sea ice, which is one of the 40 self-reinforcing feedback loops of ACD. “A world without Arctic ice will be completely new to humans,” he said.

At the time of our interview less than one year ago, McPherson had identified 24 self-reinforcing positive feedback loops. Today that number has grown to 40.

A self-reinforcing feedback loop can also be thought of as a vicious circle, in that it accelerates the impacts of ACD. An example would be methane releases in the Arctic. Massive amounts of methane are currently locked in the permafrost, which is now melting rapidly. As the permafrost melts, methane, a greenhouse gas 100 times more potent than carbon dioxide on a short timescale, is released into the atmosphere, warming it, which in turn causes more permafrost to melt, and so on.

In the near term, earth’s climate will change 10 times faster than during any other moment in the last 65 million years.

While McPherson’s perspective might sound way-out and like the stuff of science fiction, similar things have happened on this planet in the past. Fifty-five million years ago, a 5-degree Celsius rise in average global temperatures seems to have occurred in just 13 years, according to a study published in the October 2013 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. A report in the August 2013 issue of Science revealed that in the near term, earth’s climate will change 10 times faster than during any other moment in the last 65 million years.

Prior to that, the Permian mass extinction that occurred 250 million years ago, also known as “The Great Dying,” was triggered by a massive lava flow in an area of Siberia that led to an increase in global temperatures of 6 degrees Celsius. That, in turn, caused the melting of frozen methane deposits under the seas. Released into the atmosphere, those gases caused temperatures to skyrocket further. All of this occurred over a period of approximately 80,000 years. The change in climate is thought to be the key to what caused the extinction of most species on the planet. In that extinction episode, it is estimated that 95 percent of all species were wiped out.

Today’s current scientific and observable evidence strongly suggests we are in the midst of the same process – only this time it is anthropogenic, and happening exponentially faster than the Permian mass extinction did.

We are likely to begin seeing periods of an ice-free Arctic by as soon as this coming summer, or the summer of 2016 at the latest.

Once the summer ice begins melting, methane releases will worsen dramatically.

Our current extinction event is already greatly exceeding the speed, and might eventually even exceed the intensity, of the Permian mass extinction event.

We are currently in the midst of what most scientists consider the sixth mass extinction in planetary history, with between 150 and 200 species going extinct daily – a pace 1,000 times greater than the “natural” or “background” extinction rate. Our current extinction event is already greatly exceeding the speed, and might eventually even exceed the intensity, of the Permian mass extinction event. The difference is that ours is human caused, isn’t going to take 80,000 years, has so far lasted just a few centuries and is now gaining speed in a nonlinear fashion.

Is it possible that, on top of the vast quantities of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels that continue to enter the atmosphere in record amounts yearly, an increased release of methane could signal the beginning of the sort of process that led to the Great Dying? Some scientists, McPherson included, fear that the situation is already so serious and so many self-reinforcing feedback loops are already in play that we are in the process of causing our own extinction. Worse yet, some are convinced that it could happen far more quickly than generally believed possible – even in the course of just the next few decades.

Truthout caught up with McPherson at the Earth at Risk conference in San Francisco recently to ask him about his prediction of human extinction, and what that means for our lives today.

Dahr Jamail: What are some of the current signs and reports you’re seeing that are disconcerting, and really give you pause?

Guy McPherson: I’ve been traveling, so I’m out of date for the last 10 days. But starting with the snowstorm in Buffalo, New York, that was the biggest snowstorm ever recorded in Buffalo, at 6 feet 4 inches in 24 hours. It’s the largest one ever recorded in the United States.

Australia, meanwhile, is on fire. I just came back from New Zealand, and spring had just turned there because it’s the Southern Hemisphere. The whole time I was there people were commenting on how hot it was, and “how far into summer we already are,” and it was early to mid-spring when I was there.

So there’s all kinds of observational evidence.

“It’s hard for me to imagine we make it into the 2030s as a species.”

We triggered another self-reinforcing feedback loop, number 40, just about two weeks ago; then just a week ago there was a [scientific] paper that came out indicating that for every 1-degree temperature rise, there is 7 percent more lightning strikes. So that contributes to a previously existing self-reinforcing feedback loop, that of fires, especially in the Northern Hemisphere, and especially in the boreal forests. So, as it gets warmer and drier, there are more and bigger fires, and that kicks more carbon into the atmosphere, which of course contributes to ongoing, accelerating climate disruption.

So lightning is yet another piece of that. As there is more moisture in the atmosphere and more heat going into the atmosphere and warming the planet, we have more lightning. The whole atmosphere becomes more dynamic. So, those are things that come to mind.

From your analysis, how long do you think humanity has before extinction occurs?

That’s such a hard question, and we are such a clever species. It’s clear that abrupt climate change is underway. Methane has gone exponential in the atmosphere. Paul Beckwith, climate scientist at University of Ottawa, indicates we could experience a 6-degree Celsius temperature rise in the span of a decade. He thinks we’ll survive that. I can’t imagine how that could be. He’s a laser physicist and engineer, so I think he doesn’t understand biology and requisite habitat that we need to survive.

So it’s difficult for me to imagine a scenario where we’ll survive even a 4-degree Celsius [above pre-industrial baseline] temperature rise, and we’ll be there in the very near future, like by 2030, plus or minus. So it’s hard for me to imagine we make it into the 2030s as a species.

But when I deliver public presentations I try not to focus on any particular date; I just try to remind people that they are mortal. That birth is lethal, and that we don’t have long on this planet even if we live to be 100, so we might want to pursue what we love, instead of pursuing the next dollar.

A more micro-look from that question – what do you see happening in the US, if Beckwith and other scientists who are predicting that rapid a rise of temperatures in such a short time frame are correct?

The interior of continents heats at least twice as fast as the global average. So a 6-degree Celsius rise in the global average means at least 12 degrees Celsius in the interior of continents – that means no question there is no habitat for humans in the interior. So you would have to be in a maritime environment.

“It’s difficult for me to imagine a situation in which plants, even land plants survive, because they can’t get up and move.”

I think even before we get to 6 degrees Celsius above baseline, we lose all habitats. We lose all or nearly all the phytoplankton in the oceans, which are in serious decline already as the result of an increasingly acidified ocean environment. It’s difficult for me to imagine a situation in which plants, even land plants survive, because they can’t get up and move. So without plants there is no habitat.

At a 6-degree Celsius temperature rise in the span of decades, there’s no way for evolution by natural selection to keep up with that. Already, climate change – which at this point has been pretty slow and what we would call linear change – already climate change is outpacing evolution by natural selection by at least a factor of 10,000, so I don’t see any way the planet is going to keep up.

More:

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/27714-are-humans-going-extinct

Also read:  The Methane Monster Roars

http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-methane-monster-roars/5426116

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