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Archive for the ‘Water’ Category

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

resourcewars

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.

worldpopulat

most-populous-countries-2100

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]

easter_island_oped

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]

Uncivilisation

“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]

end-of-the-world

 

 

[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”.

Water Wars: Turkey, Syria, Egypt, Ethiopia

‘Water is life, so they say, but rivalry over supplies can lead to bitter conflicts. You can see here that, since the mid-20th century, the planet’s seen nearly 180 conflicts connected to water resources. These include both small and large-scale clashes – a lot of them in the Middle East and Africa. So, it might surprise you to hear that it’s water – rather than oil – that could be what’s fought over in the coming years in the region. Paula Slier reports now from Israel (7 Jan 2013)’.

Fossil Fuels, Typhoons & Humanity: Haiyan or Not???

The California-based Post Carbon Institute was founded a decade ago, in 2003, and ‘is leading the transition to a more resilient, equitable, and sustainable world . . . Post Carbon Institute provides individuals, communities, businesses, and governments with the resources needed to understand and respond to the interrelated economic, energy, environmental, and equity crises that define the 21st century. [Post Carbon Institute] envision[s] a world of resilient communities and re-localized economies that thrive within ecological bounds’.[1]  So far, so good. For example, here is a little something the Post Carbon Institute did back in 2010: ‘Fossil fuels have powered human growth and ingenuity for centuries. Now that we’re reaching the end of cheap and abundant oil and coal supplies, we’re in for an exciting ride. While there’s a real risk that we’ll fall off a cliff, there’s still time to control our transition to a post-carbon future’.[2]

A worded on the organisation’s dedicated website: “Post Carbon Institute offers concrete, tangible resources that help individuals and communities grow their resilience, take appropriate action, and build a more resilient, equitable, and sustainable future … for all”.[3]

It would stand to reason to assume that, by now, a strong scientific consensus as well as growing public awareness should have led to a world where anthropogenic climate change, as expressed in increasing amounts of greenhouse gases causing global climate fluctuations, in turn leading to catastrophic weather events, like hurricanes and typhoons. Still, the sceptics’ lobby is hard at work reassuring humanity that all’s well that ends well. The respected Christian Science Monitor’s staff writer Dan Murphy even published a piece entitled “Is global warming generating storms like Typhoon Haiyan?” recently. Murphy starts off by asking, “So global warming is causing stronger, more frequent storms right?” and answering “Wrong. At least, as far as anyone can make out, there’s no evidence of that yet. [‘]Historical Global Tropical Cyclone Landfalls[‘], an article in the July 2012 Journal of Climate, argues that no evidence yet exists that climate change is to blame for more dangerous tropical cyclones – the generic name for hurricanes and typhoons. The authors constructed a database of hurricane-strength landfalls of tropical cyclones over the years, but found that ‘The analysis does not indicate significant long-period global or individual basin trends in the frequency or intensity of landfalling (tropical cyclones) of minor or major hurricane strength’. In other words, no consistent pattern, and no evidence that storms are growing stronger or more destructive globally. Why more damage? Because more people are living in flood plains and near the coast and building more things there. Also, there’s a lot more of us around today: In 1960, the planet held 3 billion people. Today, it’s more than 7 billion”.[4]  Murphy then concedes that this “is not to say that a warmer climate won’t lead to more powerful and damaging tropical cyclones. Warm surface ocean temperatures are linked to stronger cyclones. But it’s just that it doesn’t appear to have done so yet. While the conventional wisdom on this often feels driven by people seeking to use to the latest storm headline to push back on global-warming denialists, the ends still don’t justify the misuse-of-information means”.[5]

Murphy does present a reasonable and cogent argument, but goes on to say that the present evidence does not “suggest [that] a warmer climate isn’t a threat – or won’t very clearly threaten more lives and livelihoods when powerful storms strike land. Rising sea-levels will make more and more places inhabited by people flood prone – which means more devastating storm surges . . . [but] Haiyan isn’t provably a result of a warmer planet. Nor is there yet strong evidence that global storms are more destructive”.[6]  Instead the evidence suggest that more people are nowadays living in harm’s way, which is equally, if not even more, worrying trend. In view of the projections regarding global population increase, the future does appear to look bleak, even if, as yet, climate change can not be directly blamed for current extreme weather events threatening human lives across the planet.


[1] “about” Post Carbon Institute. http://www.postcarbon.org/about.

[2] Published on 8 November 2010.

[3] “building resilience” Post Carbon Institute. http://www.postcarbon.org/approach/strategies.

[4] Dan Murphy, “Is global warming generating storms like Typhoon Haiyan?” Christian Science Monitor (21 November 2013). http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Security-Watch/Backchannels/2013/1112/Is-global-warming-generating-storms-like-Typhoon-Haiyan-video.

[5] Dan Murphy, “Is global warming generating storms like Typhoon Haiyan?”.

[6] Dan Murphy, “Is global warming generating storms like Typhoon Haiyan?”.

CARTA :The Evolution of Human Nutrition

Tracing the evolution of the human diet from our earliest ancestors can lead to a better understanding of human adaptation in the past. It may also offer clues to the origin of many health problems we currently face, such as obesity and chronic disease. This fascinating series of talks focuses on the changing diets of our ancestors and what role these dietary transitions played in the evolution of humans. Leslie C. Aiello (Wenner-Gren Foundation) begins with An Overview of Diet and Evolution, followed by Richard Wrangham (Harvard Univ) on Fire, Starch, Meat, and Honey, Steven Leigh (Univ of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) on Diets and Microbes in Primates. – Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny.

Inside Story: Climate talks COP18 – More hot air about hot air?

‘Hurricanes, heatwaves, fires, floods and famine. Evidence is growing linking extreme weather to global warming. As yet another round of United Nations climate talks begin, this time in Qatar. But where is all the hot air getting us in dealing with all the hot air? (27 Nov 2012)’.

The Big Freeze and its Reverse: Winter 2012

Europe’s big freeze has deepened. Fresh snowfalls have swept across parts of the continent, the number of deaths has risen. Authorities in Serbia say three more people have died while a further 8 have lost their lives in Romania taking the total there to 65. Army police and firefighters were attempting to clear routes to distribute food and water to thousands who were cut off in this latest white deluge.

Global warming or climate change at its best . . . While Europe is freezing as a result of the influx of Siberian weather fronts, on the other side of the planet quite the reverse is taking place, as documented by the YouTuber and blogger uspimpclub: ‘Unprecedented warmth; Records smashed; 1st early Jan 60s ever in MN!

This is from the MN Climate Working Group and NWS today. “There has never been a 60 degree temperature recorded during the first week of January in Minnesota’s modern climate record. The warmest temperature ever recorded in Minnesota during the first week of January is 59 degrees, occurring on January 7, 2003 in Amboy, MN. The warmest temperature ever recorded in Minnesota on January 5 is 57 degrees, recorded at Crookston in 1902. Reaching 60 degrees ANY time ANYWHERE in January is quite rare, occurring in only 10 years of the 120 year modern record. The all-time record high temperature for any day in January is 69 degrees, occurring January 24, 1981 in Montevideo.” Many locations not only broke records Thursday, but smashed them by more than 10 degrees! (9 Jan 2012)’.

Much of the United States has been enjoying unseasonably warm weather, and it has many people asking whatever happened to winter? NBC’s Ann Thompson looks at the “why” behind the wacky winter weather.

(1 Feb 2012)

Meanwhile, in the Old World, as reported by the Voice of America: a ‘brutal cold front blamed for hundreds of deaths across Europe is threatening to linger even longer. High winds whipped across Russia’s Krasnodar region Wednesday [, 8 Feb], churning water in the port city of Novorossiysk, tearing apart buildings and causing some roofs to collapse.  Heavy snow also blanketed the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, freezing roads and lakes. Officials say the death toll across Europe has now climbed to more than 400 people, with new fatalities being reported in central and Eastern Europe.  The French news agency said Russian officials on Wednesday raised their death toll to more than 100, with 44 new deaths blamed on the cold since the start of the month. As parts of Europe issue emergency declarations, forecasters warn it could be several weeks before the vicious cold snap departs. Omar Baddour with the World Meteorological Organization said he expects the sub-zero temperatures to start warming next week. Baddour added it could take until the end of the month for Europe to see a significant change. Hundreds of villages, and tens of thousands of people, have been cut off from supplies as snow continues to pile up. Ice has also been a problem, clogging rivers and shutting down key ports. The French news agency said Bosnian authorities started using helicopters to carry needed supplies to isolated hamlets near Mostar and Kalinovic. Italy has also been hit with heavy snow and at the Vatican Wednesday, Pope Benedict prayed for victims of the bitter cold’.[1]


[1] “Winter Tightens Icy Grip Across Europe” VOA (08 February 2012). http://www.voanews.com/english/news/europe/Winter-Tightens-Icy-Grip-Across-Europe-138939654.html.

United Nations Climate Conference Durban 2011

The climate negotiations in Durban are apparently stalling due to the dual opposition of India and China, the new economic powerhouses of the 21st century. But, as it turns out, the U.S. also carries much of the blame and not necessarily because of Republican obstructionism: ‘On Wednesday, 7 December 2011, a group of climate change deniers praised the Obama administration’s refusal to support an extension of the Kyoto Protocol or an agreement on binding emissions cuts. Democracy Now! caught up to Marc Morano, publisher of the Climate Depot, at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa. “They [the Obama administration] have kept the exact same principles and negotiating stance as President George Bush did for eight years,” Morano says. “Obama has carried on Bush’s legacy. So as sceptics, we tip our hat to President Obama in helping to crush and continuing to defeat the United Nations process. Obama has been a great friend of global warming sceptics at these conferences.” Democracy Now! gets a response from Pablo Solon, Bolivia’s former ambassador to the United Nations and former chief negotiator on climate change, and from Patrick Bond, a South African climate activist, professor and author’.

Morano did say of the current U.S. President that “His Nickname Is George W. Obama” . . . Marc Morano runs the climate website ClimateDepot.com for the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, a conservative environmental think tank. Until spring of 2009, Morano served as communications director for the Republicans on the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. Morano commenced work with the committee under Senator James Inhofe, who was majority chairman of the committee until January 2007 and is now minority ranking member. In December 2006 Morano launched a blog on the committee’s website that largely promotes the views of climate change sceptics. Morano is a former journalist with Cybercast News Service (CNS), which is owned by the conservative Media Research Center. CNS and Morano were the first source in May 2004 of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth claims against John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election and in January 2006 of similar smears against Vietnam war veteran John Murtha. Morano was “previously known as Rush Limbaugh’s ‘Man in Washington,’ as reporter and producer for the Rush Limbaugh Television Show.[1]