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Easter Island as a metaphor: resource depletion, climate change and the word of God

Easter Island

Sunday’s Zaman, Sunday, 12 December 2010.

On the other side of the world lies Easter Island, located in the southeastern Pacific Ocean, at a distance of 3,747 kilometers west of Concepción, Chile. Its original inhabitants, the Rapa Nui, are now Chilean citizens (officially since 1966), and number about 3,000, confined to the island’s sheltered west coast, while some have migrated to mainland Chile over time.

In the past few months the island has been in the news occasionally. Since last summer, Rapa Nui activists have been occupying more than two dozen buildings in a “land dispute that dates back to 1888.” The Chilean Santiago Times reported in early August 2010 that “Rapa Nui clans have occupied close to 30 properties on the island, including museums, government-owned buildings, municipal buildings, the local tourism office and a hotel. The Rapa Nui Parliament is also working to increase the importance of Rapa Nui representatives in the Chilean government. Two weeks after Rapa Nui demonstrators began occupying properties on Easter Island, Chile’s government has sent more police [45 officers] to ‘monitor’ the situation.”

But rather than talk about indigenous rights, the vicissitudes of colonization and human rights’ abuses, I would now like to turn to the island’s pre-colonial history as a means to shed some light on our current global predicament. Giant monolithic statues called mo‘ai that can weigh up to 90 tons are Easter Island’s most striking feature (a total of 887 have been inventoried). They were made relatively recently, in the period between 1250 and 1500 CE.

When Europeans arrived on the island it was utterly treeless. Pollen analysis has revealed however that the island was “almost totally” forested until about the year 1200. But now the island is barren. A volcanic crater on the island’s eastern plain, Rano Raraku, provided the source of the sideromelane (basaltic) tuff from which 95% of the statues were carved. Some 250 mo‘ai are found in an almost unbroken line around the perimeter of the island, while 600 others in various stages of completion are scattered around the island. It is hard to imagine that this now barren island was once covered with trees and forests, but as wood and other tree materials were needed to transport the mo‘ai, trees had to be cut down and forests subsequently disappeared. In view of this rapacious resource depletion executed in the space of two and a half centuries, the locals devised narratives that managed to minimize the role of humans destroying the island’s abundant forests.

The environmentally concerned physicist Adam Frank, on the other hand, relates in a matter-of-fact voice that the “need for trees, rope, and food to maintain a population of laborers eventually led to the destruction of the very forests the islanders depended on. After the forests were gone erosion took the soil too. What followed was Easter Island collapsing into starvation, warfare and cannibalism. The chance of escape disappeared too as seafaring canoes require large trees for their hulls.”

A metaphor for the state of planet earth

The Easter Island story is truly a metaphor for the state of planet earth in the 21st century. It presents a bleak picture of the future awaiting our planet as a result of climate change: Resource depletion, soil erosion, desertification, ocean acidification, sea-level rise, habitat destruction, species’ extinction, in addition to overpopulation are some of the most salient problems humanity has ever faced. The Director of Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and Germany’s Chief Government Advisor on Climate and Related Issues Hans Joachim Schellnhuber declared publicly that “We are on our way to a destabilization of the world climate that has advanced much further than most people or their governments realize . . . In nearly all areas, the developments are occurring more quickly than it has been assumed up until now.” Action is urgently needed, and currently the Mexican city of Cancún is hosting the latest round of UN climate talks and negotiations (Nov. 29 – Dec. 10). But the event has so far not produced any positive results. Far from ushering in change we can believe in, President Obama is simply continuing his predecessor’s stance on the Kyoto Protocol and allowing the US Congress not to ratify this internationally binding treaty committing most of the world’s richest countries to making emission cuts. And now Japan has categorically stated its opposition to extending the Protocol.

Christiana Figueres, secretary-general of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, announced that “It is very clear that given the diversity of positions on the Kyoto Protocol it is not going to be possible for Cancun to take a radical decision one way or the other on the Kyoto Protocol.” In a surprising turn of events, Huang Huikang, a special representative for climate change negotiations at China’s Foreign Ministry, said that some nations “want to kill the Kyoto Protocol, to end the Kyoto Protocol . . . This is a very worrying movement.” Worldwide, the three largest emitters of greenhouse gases are China (17 percent), the US (16 percent) and the EU (12 percent). China is trying very hard to convince the world that it is going green, but its power plants remain largely if not primarily coal-powered. Surprisingly, the US also uses coal for about 50% of its energy. After all, the US has the largest coal reserves in the world, which makes for a cheap, though dirty, resource.

Debates deemed ‘unnecessary’

Last week the US House of Representatives’ Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, created by Speaker Nancy Pelosi in 2007, held its final meeting. Pelosi set up the Committee to debate the latest developments on climate change issues and research, but following the recent success of Republicans during the mid-term elections, House Republicans deemed such debate “unnecessary.” Next there is the House Energy and Commerce Committee, headed since November 2008 by veteran Democrat Harry Waxman who is to be replaced shortly. One of the contenders to take over is Illinois Republican John Shimkus, a Lutheran by religion practicing climate change denial by vocation. Shimkus will now likely take over the US Energy Commission and has produced such memorable quotes as: “As long as the earth endures, seed time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, will never cease”, adding, “‘I believe that is the infallible word of God, and that’s the way it is going to be for his creation. The earth will end only when God declares its time to be over. Man will not destroy this earth. This earth will not be destroyed by a flood. Today we have about 388 [carbon doixide] parts per million in the atmosphere. I think in the age of dinosaurs, when we had the most flora and fauna, we were probably at 4,000 parts per million.

There is a theological debate that this is a carbon-starved planet — not too much carbon. And the cost of a cap-and-trade on the poor is now being discovered”. This so-called ‘cap-and-trade’ bill refers to President Obama’s American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 that attempts to limit carbon emissions, and which Shimkus opposes vehemently. In view of such developments, what hope can there be for smaller countries to influence climate negotiations or to promulgate policies that could effect any influence upon the ever-accelerating pace of climate change?

Turkey’s Environment and Forestry Minister Veysel Eroğlu is also in Cancún, but in spite of Turkey’s recent pseudo-Ottoman stance in the world, its record on action regarding climate change is not very impressive. Still, last March, the country’s business leaders held a meeting to “brainstorm about how Turkey’s transition to a low-carbon economy” could be achieved. Emel Türker, spokesperson for Greenpeace Mediterranean, declared recently that the “meetings are continuing in Cancún. The Turkish government is taking part in the meetings without promising to reduce emissions. While climate change knocks at our door with all its disasters, the decision-makers continue to sleep. Taking 19th place in the world in greenhouse gas emissions, Turkey continues its long sleep, claiming that it is a developing country and has contributed little to climate change” — a rather bleak statement with a message that seems to be in line with developments worldwide. The failure of the Cancún talks does not bode well for planet earth’s chances of avoiding a fate similar to, or rather worse than, Easter Island’s and its vanity statues.

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Fukushima Today: Scorpion Robot Mission Aborted

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The Associated Press reports that “[r]obot probes sent to one of Japan’s wrecked Fukushima nuclear reactors have suggested worse-than-anticipated challenges for the plant’s ongoing cleanup. The plant’s operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. said the remote-controlled ‘scorpion’ robot was sent into the Unit 2 reactor’s containment vessel Thursday [, 16 February 2017] to investigate the area around the core that had melted six years ago, but it failed while climbing over highly radioactive debris. The robot, carrying a dosimeter and two small cameras, transmitted some data and visuals but could not locate melted fuel — key information to determine how to remove debris out of the reactor. The robot was abandoned inside the vessel at a location where it won’t block a future robot. Preliminary examinations over the past few weeks have detected structural damage to planned robot routes and higher-than-expected radiation, suggesting the need to revise robot designs and probes. TEPCO is struggling with the plant’s decommissioning, which is expected to last decades, following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that led to the meltdown. Tens of thousands of residents had evacuated their homes, many of them still unable to return due to high radiation”.i

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Already in 2015, AP’s Mari Yamaguchi reported that a “new robot that raises its tail like a scorpion is scheduled to survey melted nuclear fuel inside one of the three wrecked reactors at Tepco’s Fukushima No. 1 plant. Toshiba Corp., co[-]developer of the device, which was demonstrated on Tuesday [, 30 June 2015], said the robot will venture into reactor 2’s primary containment vessel in August after its operators undergo a month of training”.ii And after long delays, ‘scorpion’ robots have finally started to penetrate the site in the early months of 2017, leading “TEPCO officials [to say] that despite the dangerously high figures, radiation is not leaking outside of the reactor”.iii In a more straightforward manner, though, Japan Today reports that the ‘scorpion’ “robot [finally] sent into a Japanese nuclear reactor to learn about the damage suffered in a tsunami-induced meltdown had its mission aborted after the probe ran into trouble, Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) said Thursday [, 16 February 2017]”.iv A Japan Today reader employing the pseudonym since1981 penned this telling and insightful comment, even managing to include a swipe at the Drumpf: “6 years on and still investigating damage. But they want the world to believe all is safe and people can return to their homes. Even CNN has a nice ad explaining that all is well. Sad, so sad”.

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i“Robot probes show Japan reactor cleanup worse than expected” Associated Press on Yahoo (17 Feb 2017). http://associatedpress-yahoopartner.tumblr.com/post/157343800402/robot-probes-show-japan-reactor-cleanup-worse-than.

ii Mari Yamaguchi r, “Toshiba rolls out ‘scorpion’ robot to look inside crippled reactor at Fukushima No. 1” AP (01 July 2015). http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/07/01/business/tech/toshiba-rolls-scorpion-robot-look-inside-stricken-fukushima-reactor-2/#.WKbXPPnhDIU.

iii “Robot probes show Japan reactor cleanup worse than expected”.

iv“’Scorpion’ robot mission inside Fukushima reactor aborted” Japan Today (17 Feb 2017). https://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/scorpion-robot-mission-inside-fukushima-reactor-aborted.

Last Hours

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‘The film Last Hours is the 2nd film in the Green World Rising Series ( the first one is Carbon that is available on this channel). Last Hours describes a science-based climate scenario where a tipping point to runaway climate change is triggered by massive releases of frozen methane. Methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, has already started to percolate into the open seas and atmosphere from methane hydrate deposits beneath melting arctic ice, from the warming northern-hemisphere tundra, and from worldwide continental-shelf undersea methane pools. Burning fossil fuels release carbon that, principally through greenhouse effect, heat the atmosphere and the seas. This is happening most rapidly at the polar extremes, and this heating has already begun the process of releasing methane. If we do not begin to significantly curtail the use of carbon-based fossil fuels, this freed methane threatens to radically accelerate the speed of global warming, potentially producing a disaster beyond the ability of the human species to adapt. With this film, we hope to awaken people to the fact that the earth has experienced five major extinctions in the deep geologic past – times when more than half of all life on earth vanished – and that we are now entering a sixth extinction. Industrial civilization with its production of greenhouse gases has the potential to trigger a mass extinction on the order of those seen in the deep geological past. In the extreme, it could threaten not just human civilization, but the very existence of human life on this planet. An asset for the climate change movement, Last Hours will be disseminated globally to help inform society about the dangers associated with climate change and to encourage the world community to chart a path forward that greatly reduces green house gas emissions . . . Last Hours is narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, presented by Thom Hartmann and directed by Leila Conners. Executive Producers are George DiCaprio, Earl Katz and Roee Sharon Peled. Last Hours is produced by Mathew Schmid and was written by Thom Hartmann, Sam Sacks, and Leila Conners. Music is composed and performed by Francesco Lupica. Last Hours is brought to you by the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation and produced by Tree Media. Published on Sep 19, 2014′.

 

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Climate Change and Migration Patterns: Hitting the Fan

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The journal Climate Change recently published a joint article entitled “Strongly increasing heat extremes in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) in the 21st century”.[1] The collective of authors consists of the specialists Jos Lelieveld, Y. Proestos, P. Hadjinicolaou, M. Tanarhte, E. Tyrlis and G. Zittis. And their conclusions are dire indeed, as summarized by the journalist Matt Atherton: “Up to 500 million people living in the Middle East and North Africa [MENA] could be forced to leave their homes because of extreme heat predicted in the near future, researchers have said. A study has found that these regions will become uninhabitable by the end of the century, when temperatures of up to 50C will become the norm during the summer months”.[2] Or, if you like a more scientific wording: “We conclude that the MENA is a climate change hotspot that could turn into a scorching area in summer. There is general consent that heat extremes impact human health, contribute to the spreading of food- and water borne diseases, and that more intense heat waves increase premature mortality. In the past, climate assessments of social and economic impacts due to changing weather extremes, including consequences for human security and migration, have often focused on storms, floods, droughts and sea level rise. It is increasingly recognized that hot weather extremes cause a loss of work capacity and aggravate societal stresses, especially for disadvantaged people and vulnerable populations (IPCC 2014). We anticipate that climate change and increasing hot weather extremes in the MENA, a region subject to economic recession, political turbulence and upheaval, may exacerbate humanitarian hardship and contribute to migration”.[3]

Jos Lelieveld

Jos Lelieveld, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and co-author of the above-quoted study,  said that “[i]n future, the climate in large parts of the Middle East and North Africa could change in such a manner that the very existence of its inhabitants is in jeopardy . . . Climate change will significantly worsen the living conditions in the Middle East and in North Africa. Prolonged heat waves and desert dust storms can render some regions uninhabitable, which will surely contribute to the pressure to migrate”.[4] Or, if you will, the present migration crisis in Europe is but the beginning of the real crisis that will surely happen as the century moves along into the near future . . . And at this juncture, the World Bank has also just released another report: “Water scarcity, exacerbated by climate change, could cost some regions up to 6% of their GDP by 2050, spur migration, and spark conflict, according to a new World Bank report High and Dry: Climate Change, Water and the Economy. The combined effects of growing populations, rising incomes, and expanding cities will see demand for water rising exponentially, while supply becomes more erratic and uncertain, the report finds, with these effects expected to be most pronounced in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia”.

 

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[1] J. Lelieveld, Y. Proestos, P. Hadjinicolaou, M. Tanarhte, E. Tyrlis & G. Zittis, “Strongly increasing heat extremes in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) in the 21st century” Climate Change (25 March 2016). http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10584-016-1665-6.

[2] Matt Atherton, “Climate change: Middle East and North Africa to become uninhabitable forcing mass migration” IBT (03 MAy 2016). http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/climate-change-middle-east-north-africa-become-uninhabitable-forcing-mass-migration-1558023.

[3] J. Lelieveld, Y. Proestos, P. Hadjinicolaou, M. Tanarhte, E. Tyrlis & G. Zittis, “Strongly increasing heat extremes in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) in the 21st century”, p. 13.

[4] Matt Atherton, “Climate change: Middle East and North Africa to become uninhabitable forcing mass migration”.

Chernobyl and Nuclear Power: 30 Years of Fallout

FRANCE_24_logo_svg’30 years ago today, a botched safety test led to the world’s worst nuclear disaster at Chernobyl in eastern Ukraine. France, with its 58 nuclear reactors, is particularly sensitive to this story. François Hollande reiterated a promise to close the oldest one at Fessenheim but no firm date is set. What future for atomic energy? And could the next Chernobyl be on purpose? It’s a serious question since Belgian authorities revealed that the Brussels attackers had considered targeting nuclear plants. (26 April 2016)’.

 

On a dedicated website, the IAEA presents this potted history of the impact of the Chernobyl disaster: “On 26 April 1986, the most serious accident in the history of the nuclear industry occurred at Unit 4 of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the former Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. Since that time there has been much confusion about the real consequences of the accident, including implications for health, the environment, nuclear safety, society and the economies of countries affected by the accident. In 1996 at the time of the tenth anniversary there were major reviews of the information available in an attempt to clarify and synthesise a consensus on the actual consequences of the accident. In 2000-2001, by the fifteenth anniversary, several articles books, and important publications on the topic were issued, and international reviews were prepared on lessons learned. The most comprehensive analysis on human exposures and health consequences of the Chernobyl accident, both for workers of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, rescue and clean-up workers and for the population of Belarusian, Ukrainian and Russian areas contaminated with radionuclides, was provided by the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR), in its 2 000 Report to the General Assembly . . . In 2001, on the occasion of the fifteenth anniversary of the Chernobyl accident, two international scientific conferences were held in Kiev, Ukraine. The first of them, called ‘Fifteen Years after the Chernobyl Accident. Lessons Learned’ held April 18-20, 2001, discussed lessons learned from the accident in areas of nuclear and radiation safety, emergency preparedness and response, status and future of the Shelter and the exclusion zone, radiation health and environmental effects. The second conference entitled ‘Health Effects of the Chernobyl Accident: Results of the 15-year follow-up Studies’, was held 4-8 June 2001, only considered the health effects of the accident, presented medical lessons learnt and developed recommendations for public health services and for future research. conclusions. During 2001-2002, the UN family organizations UNDP, WHO, OCHA, and UNICEF prepared and published, with the IAEA’s support, the UN report on The Human Consequences of the Chernobyl Accident – a Strategy of Recovery. After a proposal made by Belarus, the IAEA initiated a project in 1995 to convene an international group of high level experts who would review the information drawn from the long term environmental and social studies of the Chernobyl accident and its consequences. The study had been monitored by an International Advisory Committee under the project management of the Institut de protection et de sûreté nucléaire (IPSN), France. The project report, based mainly on the studies carried out by experts from Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine during the period 1986-1995, was published as an IAEA TECDOC, Present and future environmental impact of the Chernobyl accident – IAEA-TECDOC-1240 (3MB). Two further projects were initiated by the IAEA in its follow-up actions designed to mitigate the impact of the accident’s consequences. The first of these was to establish the Chernobyl Forum, through which the relevant organizations within the UN system the governments of the primarily affected countries (Belarus, Russia and Ukraine) and other relevant international organisations could discuss their views on the consequences of the accident and implement, jointly or individually. The Forum was launched in February 2003, and the first Organizational Meeting was convened at the Agency headquarters in Vienna on 3-5 February 2003. The second project is the new series of Chernobyl-related technical co-operation (TC) projects with the affected countries. Through the TC Programme over US $10 million have already been disbursed since 1990 within the frame of 31 completed and ongoing projects aiming to reduce the impact of the Chernobyl accident. During 2003 the IAEA launched its new topical regional TC project (RER/9/074) on the long-term rehabilitation strategies and monitoring of human exposure in the rural areas affected by the Chernobyl accident. The IAEA will continue to support activities aiming to overcome the adverse radiological effects of the largest nuclear accident in human history as long as they are internationally recognized to be justified”.[1]

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The above-quoted verbiage appears to consist of a lot of words that indicate that the ultimate impact of Chernobyl is still hard to determine and that the process is still ongoing . . . or a project in progress, if you will.

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[1] “Consequences of the Chernobyl Accident” IAEA. http://www-ns.iaea.org/appraisals/chernobyl.asp.

Indian Point – We Are Flirting With Catastrophe

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‘For years people have been claiming that nuclear power is a safe and clean alternative to fossil fuels. But that doesn’t explain why New York governor Andrew Cuomo wants to shut down a nuclear plant less than 100 miles from New York City. The latest leak is just one incident in a long list of problems – problems that show just closely we are flirting with catastrophe. Published on Feb 16, 2016’.

 Staff writer at Natural News David Gutierrez elaborates that “Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that a nuclear power plant about 40 miles from Manhattan had leaked one of the most potent radioactive carcinogens into the groundwater. The groundwater in that area flows to the Hudson River just 25 miles north of New York City . . . Alarmingly, the leak is not the first for this plant in recent years. In fact, such leaks are relatively common among U.S. nuclear power plants . . . The [current] leak took place at the Indian Point nuclear power plant, which supplies about 30 percent of New York City’s electricity. Jerry Nappi, spokesperson for plant operator Entergy, said the leak probably came from a “spillage of water as a result of a mechanical issue during pumping of water” during January [2016]. Neil Sheehan, a spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), said that an out-of-service sump pump caused water to build up and overflow from a containment drain. This then produced a leak from the building, and eventually the radioactive water made its way into the ground. There was no word on why the leak went undetected for so long. Samples taken at the testing wells around the plant showed the highest radioactivity levels ever detected at Indian Point, in some cases exceeded 8 million picocuries per liter. The radioactive component that escaped appears to be tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. Alarmingly, tritium is most carcinogenic when it contaminates drinking water. It can also cause birth defects”.[1]

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[1] David Gutierrez, “Massive leak at nuclear facility in New York causes 65,000% increase in radioactivity of ground water” Natural News(14 Jan 2016). http://www.naturalnews.com/052964_Indian_Point_Energy_Center_nuclear_power_plant_radioactive_groundwater.html#ixzz40Q3YJHIc.

Human Extinction ahead and the End of the World as we Know it

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The eminent Australian scientist Frank Fenner, who passed away in late 2010, made some surprisingly unsurprising predictions right before his death. Writing on the web-based science, research and technology news service Phys.org, Lin Edwards put forward that Professor Fenner “predicts humans will probably be extinct within 100 years, because of overpopulation, environmental destruction and climate change”.[1] As such, this apparently shocking statement should not come as a surprise to anybody . . . given that estimates indicate that the availability of drinking water will become problematic by the year 2040 and that the supply of foodstuffs will arguably falter in about ten years from then, or by 2050 . . . underpinning such dire estimations are the prospects of the sustained growth of the human population in the coming century. The world’s leading resource for events, research, and insight into the global agricultural investment sector Global AgInvesting (or GAI) released a report in 2012 (entitled simply, World Population Growth in the 21st Century) that put the population increase into perspective: “[t]he world’s human population does not grow linearly, but rather geometrically, (i.e., 1, 2, 4, 8, 16…, etc.) which explains the five-fold increase in population from 1.2 billion to 6.1 billion during the 20th Century. Rapid population growth is predicted to continue for the first half of the 21st century, with rates of growth declining during the latter half of the century. World population is projected to stabilize at just over 10.1 billion by 2100”.[2] More than 10 billion people without easy or even direct access to either drinking water or food, to be precise. That is, as things stand today.

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Edwards continues her piece by stating that Professor Fenner has “said [that] homo sapiens will not be able to survive the population explosion and ‘unbridled consumption’, and will become extinct, perhaps within a century, along with many other species. United Nations official figures from last year [i.e. 2011] estimate the human population is 6.8 billion, and is predicted to pass seven billion next year. Fenner told The Australian he tries not to express his pessimism because people are trying to do something, but keep putting it off. He said he believes the situation is irreversible, and it is too late because the effects we have had on Earth since industrialization (a period now known to scientists unofficially as the Anthropocene) rivals any effects of ice ages or comet impacts”.[3] The report World Population Growth in the 21st Century puts it like this: The “rapid growth [of the human population] is expected [to occur] in the next 40 years, and will likely place a huge burden on global resources and the agriculture sector in particular”.[4] Professor Fenner himself told the press that “We’ll undergo the same fate as the people on Easter Island, there will be a lot more wars over food”,[5] aka resource wars-in-the-extreme. Lin Edwards then goes on to explain Fenner’s analogy: the “Easter Island is famous for its massive stone statues. Polynesian people settled there, in what was then a pristine tropical island, around the middle of the first millennium AD. The population grew slowly at first and then exploded. As the population grew the forests were wiped out and all the tree animals became extinct, both with devastating consequences. After about 1600 the civilization began to collapse, and had virtually disappeared by the mid-19th century. Evolutionary biologist Jared Diamond said the parallels between what happened on Easter Island and what is occurring today on the planet as a whole are ‘chillingly obvious'”.[6]

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At the end of 2010, I wrote a piece appropriately headlined “Easter Island as a metaphor” and in it I tried to come to terms with what had happened to the island and how these events appear to predict the fate of the planet as a whole: “[w]hen Europeans arrived on the island it was utterly treeless. Pollen analysis has revealed however that the island was ‘almost totally’ forested until about the year 1200. But now the island is barren. A volcanic crater on the island’s eastern plain, Rano Raraku, provided the source of the sideromelane (basaltic) tuff from which 95% of the statues were carved. Some 250 mo‘ai [or Easter Island statues] are found in an almost unbroken line around the perimeter of the island, while 600 others in various stages of completion are scattered around the island. It is hard to imagine that this now barren island was once covered with trees and forests, but as wood and other tree materials were needed to transport the mo‘ai, trees had to be cut down and forests subsequently disappeared. In view of this rapacious resource depletion executed in the space of two and a half centuries, the locals devised narratives that managed to minimize the role of humans destroying the island’s abundant forests. The environmentally concerned physicist Adam Frank, on the other hand, relates in a matter-of-fact voice that the ‘need for trees, rope, and food to maintain a population of laborers eventually led to the destruction of the very forests the islanders depended on. After the forests were gone erosion took the soil too. What followed was Easter Island collapsing into starvation, warfare and cannibalism. The chance of escape disappeared too as seafaring canoes require large trees for their hulls'”.[7] Edwards, for her part, adds that “many scientists are also pessimistic, [but] others are more optimistic”.[8] She cites Professor Stephen Boyden as an example of the latter and predictably, he has come out to state that “[w]hile there’s a glimmer of hope, it’s worth working to solve the problem. We have the scientific knowledge to do it but we don’t have the political will”.[9] The other side of the coin is represented by somebody like the English writer and erstwhile green activist Paul Kingsnorth, who spent about two decades striving to save the planet as an activist in the environmental movement. But once he turned 40, he had an epiphany of sorts and threw out the baby with the bathwater, some would argue . . . he wrote an essay that ended with the following words: “It’s all fine. I withdraw, you see. I withdraw from the campaigning and the marching . . . I am leaving. I am going to go out walking”.[10] Together with Dougald Hine, he penned UNCIVILISATION: The Dark Mountain Manifesto,[11]

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“These are precarious and unprecedented times . . . Little that we have taken for granted is likely to come through this century intact.

We don’t believe that anyone — not politicians, not economists, not environmentalists, not writers — is really facing up to the scale of this … Somehow, technology or political agreements or ethical shopping or mass protest are meant to save our civilization from self-destruction.

Well, we don’t buy it. This project starts with our sense that civilization as we have known it is coming to an end; brought down by a rapidly changing climate, a cancerous economic system and the ongoing mass destruction of the non-human world. But it is driven by our belief that this age of collapse — which is already beginning — could also offer a new start, if we are careful in our choices.

The end of the world as we know it is not the end of the world full stop”.[12]

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[1] Lin Edwards, “Humans will be extinct in 100 years says eminent scientist” Phys.org (23 July 2010). http://phys.org/news/2010-06-humans-extinct-years-eminent-scientist.html#jCp.

[2] World Population Growth in the 21st Century (23 March 2012), p. 3. http://www.globalaginvesting.com/downloads/files/World-Population-Growth-in-the-21st-Century-277F.pdf.

[3] Lin Edwards, “Humans will be extinct in 100 years says eminent scientist”.

[4] World Population Growth in the 21st Century, p. 3.

[5] Lin Edwards, “Humans will be extinct in 100 years says eminent scientist”.

[6] Lin Edwards, “Humans will be extinct in 100 years says eminent scientist”.

[7] C. Erimtan, “Easter Island as a metaphor: resource depletion, climate change and the word of God” Today’s Zaman (21 December 2010). http://www.todayszaman.com/op-ed_easter-island-as-a-metaphor-resource-depletion-climate-change-and-the-word-of-god-by-can-eri-mtan-_229397.html.

[8] Lin Edwards, “Humans will be extinct in 100 years says eminent scientist”.

[9] Lin Edwards, “Humans will be extinct in 100 years says eminent scientist”.

[10] Wen Stephenson ,”‘I withdraw’: A talk with climate defeatist Paul Kingsnorth” Grist 50 (11 Apr 2012). http://grist.org/climate-energy/i-withdraw-a-talk-with-climate-defeatist-paul-kingsnorth/.

[11] The Dark Mountain Project. http://dark-mountain.net/about/manifesto/.

[12] Wen Stephenson ,”‘I withdraw’: A talk with climate defeatist Paul Kingsnorth”.