Category Archives: Oceans/Seas

There Is No Time Left

Imagine a scenario with no temperature difference between the equator and the North Pole. That was 12 million years ago when there was no ice at either pole. In that context, according to professor James G. Anderson of Harvard University, carbon in the atmosphere today is the same as 12 million years ago. The evidence is found in the paleoclimate record. It’s irrefutable.

Meaning, today’s big meltdown has only just started.

And, we’ve got 5 years to fix it or endure Gonzo World.

That’s one big pill to swallow!

That scenario comes by way of interpretation of a speech delivered by James G. Anderson at the University of Chicago in January 2018 when he received the Benton Medal for Distinguished Public Service, in part, for his groundbreaking research that led to the Montreal Protocol in 1987 to mitigate damage to the Ozone Layer.

At the time, Anderson was the force behind the most important event in the history of atmospheric chemistry, discovering and diagnosing Antarctica’s ozone hole, which led to the Montreal Protocol. Without that action, ramifications would have been absolutely catastrophic for the planet.

Stratospheric ozone is one of the most delicate aspects of planet habitability, providing protection from UV radiation for all life forms. If perchance the stratospheric ozone layer could be lowered to the ground, stacking the otherwise dispersed molecules together, it would be 1/8th of an inch in thickness or the thickness of two pennies. That separates humanity from burning up as the stratospheric ozone absorbs 98% of UV radiation.

In his acceptance speech, James G. Anderson, Harvard professor of atmospheric chemistry, now warns that it is foolhardy to assume we can recover from the global warming leviathan simply by cutting back emissions.

Accordingly, the only way humanity can dig itself out of the climate change/global-warming hole is by way of a WWII type effort with total transformation of industry off carbon and removal of carbon from the atmosphere within five years. The situation is so dire that it requires a worldwide Marshall Plan effort, plus kneeling in prayer.

Additionally, Anderson says the chance of permanent ice remaining in the Arctic after 2022 is zero. Already, 80% is gone. The problem: Without an ice shield to protect frozen methane hydrates in place for millennia, the Arctic turns into a methane nightmare. This is comparable to poking the global warming monster with a stick, as runaway global warming (“RGW”) emerges from the depths. Interestingly enough, the Arctic Methane Emergency Group/UK, composed of distinguished scientists, seems to be in agreement with this assessment.

Assuming professor Anderson is as accurate now as he was about the Ozone dilemma, then what can be done? After all, the world’s biggest economy, which has over-reaching influence on the biosphere, is under the influence of anti-science leadership. In fact, the Trump group is driving scientists out. France is hiring left and right under its “Make Our Planet Great Again” initiative. Thirteen of the initial eighteen French science grantees are from the U.S.

The world cannot count on leadership from America. In fact, quite the opposite as America gears up for massive fossil fuel production like never before just as the biosphere starts crumbling. Leadership by arrogance is a deadly deathly exercise.

Donald Trump claims the Paris ‘15 accord will hurt U.S. business because it requires reduction of emissions. That’s costly. He’s got it backwards. U.S. business and neoliberal tenets destroy the climate whilst creating an inverted pyramid of wealth that undermines the entire socio-politico-economic fabric. It’s the one-two punch, (1) ignoring and abusing the biosphere because “care for the planet” requires extra costs that eat into corporate profits whilst (2) undercutting upward mobility as American wages are exported and destroyed when U.S. manufacturing offshores to low wage countries like China and Mexico and Thailand. What could be worse for American workers than competition with the lowest common denominator in the world while living in a dicey biosphere? In part, it’s why the American middle class is almost broke, actually appended to credit cards in debt up to eyeballs.

As such, between squeezing the daylights out of middle class pocketbooks and abusing the biosphere, U.S. leadership stinks so badly that it demands outright change, similar to France in the late 18th century when thousands of arrogant aristocrats were beheaded in the streets, and the American Revolution (1775-83) when colonists got fed up with the madness of their leader, King George III. Except, King George was the first British monarch to study science. Still, the king suffered from “acute mania.”

Good News: There is a silver lining to the Trump presidency: Inept, arrogant, stupid leadership often times serves as a catalyst, often times revolutionary, for major changes in the socio-politico-economic fabric of society. This is seen throughout history. The reasoning is simple enough. Inept leadership brings to surface all of the warts for all to see. The deficiencies and inequities are not only exposed but also hit citizenry over the head like a leaden hammer. Suddenly, people awaken from their deep coma and kick the bums out. In the case of King Louis XVI of France, he was beheaded before a crowd of tens of thousands in the streets of Paris. In the case of King George III, his ineptness led to the American Revolution. Both leaders served as catalyst to radical change.

Today, the warts are (1) neoliberal globalism with its tail of inequities, leaving 90% of society choking on dust. “The one percent” says it all, and (2) fossil fuel use/abuse, as the planet chokes on a dust cloud so thick that it’s losing its breath (new research shows that global warming destroys oxygen). There’s one powerful catalyst, amongst many!

Global Warming Zaps Oxygen

Take a deep breath. A recent scientific study reveals disturbing loss of ocean oxygen. Unnerving climatic events like this justify ringing and clanging of the bells on the Public Square, all hands on deck. In particular, and as expected, the culprit is too much anthropogenic-induced global warming or idiomatically speaking, human activities such as planes, trains, and automobiles… burning tons of coal. Somebody must do something to fix it… ah-ah-ah!

According to Denise Breitburg, lead author marine ecologist with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center:

The decline in ocean oxygen ranks among the most serious effects of human activities on the Earth’s environment.1

A team of scientists with GO2NE (Global Ocean Oxygen Network) created by the UN Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission conducted a sweeping all-encompassing study of the state of ocean oxygen:

In the past 50 years, the amount of water in the open ocean with zero oxygen has gone up more than fourfold. In coastal water bodies, including estuaries and seas, low-oxygen sites have increased more than 10-fold since 1950. Scientists expect oxygen to continue dropping even outside these zones as Earth warms.2

According to Vladimir Ryabinin, executive secretary of the International Oceanographic Commission that formed GO2NE:

Approximately half of the oxygen on Earth comes from the ocean.

Today, there are actual dead zones where oxygen has plummeted so low that life suffocates. Not only low oxygen that doesn’t suffocate life still stunts growth, hinders reproduction, and promotes disease. In short, low oxygen stresses the entire ecosystem. According to the “legendary ocean researcher” Dr. Sylvia Earle, as recognized by the Library of Congress, and referred to as “Her Deepness” by The New Yorker and former Chief Scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) but resigned and started Mission Blue “to save the ocean”: “The ocean is dying… All of us are the beneficiaries of having burned through fossil fuels, but at what costs?  If we continue business as usual, we’re in real trouble.”

If only, a wish list, key federal positions that impact the planet, like the presidency (Trump) and heads of departments, like the EPA (Pruitt), had a smidgen of Dr. Earle’s mindset, knowledge, and consciousness, the great biosphere Earth would have a fighting chance, but no. Regrettably, they are at war with the planet. Their timing in office could not be worse! Indeed, the U.S. economy is the world’s largest at 25% of world GDP.  Its impact on the climate system exceeds all others.

Metaphorically, comparing biosphere Earth to a passenger plane traveling from NY to Paris, nobody notices when half a dozen rivets pop off the fuselage. And, nobody knows when another 10 or 20 pop off. The plane still flies, but as rivets continue to pop off and the fuselage loosens and opens up the plane starts losing altitude. Passengers notice.

Similarly, biosphere Earth has lost many, many rivets but in contrast to the passenger plane scenario, scientists like Dr. Sylvia Earle and Dr. James Hansen, former top climate scientist of NASA, have already noticed, and they forewarned society before the fuselage rips apart, before passengers notice. Consequently, according to Paris ’15, the world takes warnings by scientists seriously and acts to repair the damage, but will it be soon enough? Some scientists don’t think so.

Examples of earthly rivets popping off: (1) “Ocean seasons are changing as a result of too much heat and CO2… The scale of ocean warming is truly staggering with numbers so large that it is difficult for most people to comprehend.”3 , (2) In 2017, the Gulf of Mexico’s Dead Zone, where oxygen is so weak that fish die, is the largest ever at 8,800 square miles.4, (3) The deadly trio, or fingerprints, of mass extinctions, including global warming, ocean acidification, and anoxia or lack of ocean oxygen at current rate of change are unprecedented in Earth’s known history.5, (4) Oceans have lost 40% of plankton production over past 50 years, threatening loss of one of the major sources of oxygen for the planet.6 Many more examples of earthly rivets popping off are extant but time and space limit.

What if the aforementioned airline pilot announced: “This is an urgent message from your pilot: Rivets are popping off the fuselage. Fasten your seat belts!”

In reality, that’s happening now. Earthly rivets are popping off all over the place, and even though scientists are warning of rivets popping off or “tipping points” in the climate system, America’s president Trump relies upon sources like Fox News and the Heritage Foundation for science knowledge. Therefore, it’s guaranteed he’ll never even hear the compulsory final announcement: “Fasten your seat belts.” Well, come to think of it, it’s way too late then anyways.

  1. “The Ocean Is Losing Its Breath”, University of Californian-San Diego, Science Daily, January 4, 2018.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Dan Laffoley, IUCN Global Marine and Polar Programme.
  4. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
  5. Alex Rogers, Oxford, scientific director State of the Ocean.
  6. Boris Worm, Killam Research Professor, Dalhousie University, Halifax.

Ending Pollution Requires a Change in Attitudes

Pollution has become an everyday affair; a murderous way of life which, according to a report published in The Lancet, is responsible for the deaths of at least nine million people every year. The air we breathe is poisoned, the streams, rivers, lakes and oceans are filthy, — some more, some less — the land littered with waste, the soil toxic. Neglect, complacency and exploitation characterize the attitude of governments, corporations and far too many individuals towards the life of the planet, and its rich interwoven ecological systems.

The Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health, which is yet another cry for urgent collective action, found that pollution is responsible for a range of diseases that “kill one in every six people around the world”. This figure, while shocking, is probably a good deal higher because “the impact of many pollutants is poorly understood.” The landmark study establishes that we have reached the point when “deaths attributed to pollution are triple those from Aids, malaria and tuberculosis combined.”

Our selfish materialistic way of life is having a devastating impact on all forms of life; unless there is a major shift in attitudes the numbers of people dying of pollution will increase; contamination of the oceans will increase, deforestation and desertification will continue, and the steady destruction of all that is beautiful and naturally given will intensify. Until one day it will be too late.

Plastic oceans, poisoned air

Even climate change deniers cannot blame the natural environment for the plastic islands that litter the oceans, or the poisoned water and contaminated air. Pollution results from human activity, it “endangers the stability of the Earth’s support systems and threatens the continuing survival of human societies.” A sense of intense, life-threatening urgency needs to be engendered, particularly amongst the governments and populations of those countries that are, and have historically been, the major polluters — the industrialized nations of the World.

Although China has now overtaken the USA in producing the highest levels of greenhouse gas emissions, as the New York Times reports, America (which has 5% of the world’s population but produces 30% of the world’s waste), “with its love of big cars, big houses and blasting air-conditioners, has contributed more than any other country to the atmospheric carbon dioxide that is scorching the planet…. In cumulative terms, we [the US] certainly own this problem more than anybody else does,” said David G. Victor, a longtime scholar of climate politics at the University of California.

Russia and India follow the USA as emitters of the most greenhouse gases; then comes Japan, Germany, Iran and Saudi Arabia, which the World Economic Forum relates, has “on a per-country average, the most toxic air in the world.” Australia, Canada and Brazil should also be included amongst the principle polluters; as Brazil’s economy has grown so have the quantities of poisonous gas emissions, their effect made worse by deforestation of vast areas of the Amazon rain forests.

Indonesia, too, warrants our attention. This small country (3% of the global population) in the middle of the South Seas is a major polluter: It has the third largest expanse of tropical forest after the Amazon and Congo, and is cutting down trees at the highest rate on the planet; it produces approximately 5% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions, is the second-largest contributor to marine plastic pollution after China and has some of the dirtiest water in south east Asia – only a third of the population having access to clean drinking water.

China also has a problem with polluted water; IBT reports that “Government analysis found that more than 80% of the water from its wells was not safe to drink…while about 60% of its groundwater overall was of poor or extremely poor quality.” Water pollution has reached serious levels in America as well: according to the Water Quality Project 32% of bays, 40% of the country’s rivers and 46% of its lakes are “too polluted for fishing, swimming or aquatic life.” The Mississippi River, which is amongst the most polluted rivers in the world, “carries an estimated 1.5 million metric tons of nitrogen pollution into the Gulf of Mexico every year. The resulting pollution is the cause of a coastal dead zone the size of Massachusetts every summer.”

Polluted rivers result in contaminated oceans; chemical fertilizers, detergents, oil, sewage, pesticides and plastic waste flow into the sea from inland waterways. Some pollutants sit on the surface of the ocean, many collect on the seabed where they are ingested by small marine organisms and introduced into the global food chain. The shocking condition of the seas was highlighted recently in the BBC production Blue Planet II. In a sequence that moved many to tears, an Albatross, having been at sea for weeks looking for food, was filmed feeding its chicks with bits of plastic collected from the surface of the ocean.

Recent research has identified 10 rivers as the source of 90% of the plastics in the oceans. Deutsche Welle reports that all of them run through densely populated areas where waste collection or recycling infrastructure is inadequate. Three of these filthy tributaries are in China, four more run through China, two — the Nile and the Niger (regularly the scene of oil spills) — are in Africa. The list is completed by the Holy Ganges in India, which serves as rubbish dump (almost 80% of urban waste is thrown into the river), utility room, bathroom, burial chamber and sacred temple.

Plastic waste is produced everywhere, but five Asian countries produce 60% of the global total, currently 300 million tons (only 10% is recycled): China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. If nothing changes it’s predicted that by 2025, plastic consumption in Asia alone could increase by 80 percent to over 200 million tons, and global consumption could reach 400 million tons. Greenpeace estimates that roughly 10% of all plastic ends up in the Oceans where it is thought to kill over a million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals.

The statistics around pollution are numerous, shocking and all too depressing. Here’s a taste:

  • 5,000 people die every day through drinking unclean water.
  • About 80% of landfill items could be recycled.
  • 65% of deaths in Asia and 25% of deaths in India are due to air pollution.
  • Chronic obstructive respiratory disease (caused by burning fossil fuels indoors) is responsible for the death of more than 1 million people annually.
  • Over 3 million children under five die annually from environmental factors.
  • Worldwide, 13,000-15,000 pieces of plastic are dumped into the ocean every day.
  • At least two-thirds of the world’s fish stocks suffer from plastic ingestion
  • For every 1 million tons of oil shipped, approximately 1 ton is wasted through spillage.
  • A million plastic bottles are sold worldwide every minute; forecast to increase by 20% by 2021.
  • Around 1,000 children die in India annually due to diseases caused by polluted water.
  • There are more than 500 million cars in the world; there could be 1 billion by 2030.
  • Shoppers worldwide use approximately 500 billion single-use plastic bags annually. This translates to about a million bags every minute and the number is rising.

Criminal neglect

Pollution and the environmental catastrophe more broadly is the result of insatiable consumerism, selfishness and individual and collective irresponsibility. It flows from a materialistic approach to living, rooted in desire and an unjust economic system that demands unbridled consumerism for its survival. Ideologically rooted Corporate Governments imprisoned in nationalism, and obsessed with short-term economic growth feed the system and the most important issue of the time is relegated to an afterthought, rarely spoken about by politicians who seem to believe that limitless development and mass consumerism is of greater importance than the health of the planet.

Designing policies that will clean up the air, the seas and rivers, and will preserve forests and farmland, should be the priority for all governments around the world, particularly the industrialized nations, who have been responsible for producing the majority of the filth and for cultivating the consumer culture that is perpetuating the crisis. But whilst governments need to take a leading role to stop pollution, individuals, all of us, need to change the way we think and how we live. It is imperative we consume less and that decisions regarding purchases should be made firstly with environmental considerations in mind.  Sufficiency and simplicity of living need to replace abundance, complacency and indulgence.

This demands a major shift in attitudes, not in 25 years, not in a year, but now. As Pope Francis rightly states in his groundbreaking papal letter ‘Care for Our Common Home’, “Our efforts at [environmental] education will be inadequate and ineffectual unless we strive to promote a new way of thinking about human beings, life, society and our relationship with nature. Otherwise, the paradigm of consumerism will continue to advance, with the help of the media and the highly effective workings of the market.”

The ‘market’, aided by the media, is not concerned by such liberal considerations as the welfare of the planet and the health of human beings; it is a blind monster with a compulsion for profit, and if the ecological networks within which we live are to be purified and healing is to take place it needs to be rejected totally. A new way of thinking is required that moves away from divisive selfish ways to inclusive, socially/environmentally responsible behavior based on a recognition that the environment we live in is not separate from us and that we all have a duty to care for it. This requires a fundamental change of attitudes.

“If we want to bring about deep change, we need to realize that certain mindsets really do influence our behaviour.” And, whilst there are many exceptions to this, the prevailing, carefully cultivated ‘mindset’ is a materialistic, self-centered one in which responsibility is passed to someone else, usually a government. It is a mindset that has been conditioned virtually from birth by the motivating mechanism of reward and punishment. This crude tool encourages deceit, undermines humanity’s essential goodness and relies on the stimulation of materialistic, hedonistic desire – the very thing that is fueling the environmental crisis – for its success. It is a method that may well work with corporations and to a limited degree with individuals, but a more potent and cleaner way to change the behavior of the population at large is the Way of Awareness: Awareness that we are brothers and sisters of one humanity, that cooperation, not competition is an inherent aspect of our nature and that that we are all responsible for the world in which we live. It’s up to us, each and every one of us, to consciously live in an environmentally responsible manner – no matter the cost or inconvenience, and to begin to repair the terrible damage we have done and continue to do to the natural world.

Warring on Plastic: David Attenborough, Britain and Environmental Missions

Few documentaries have had quite this impact, so much so that it has ushered in the unfortunate combination of war and plastic, two terms that sit uneasily together, if at all.  Tears were recorded; anxiety levels were propelled as Sir David Attenborough tore and tugged at heart strings in his production Blue Planet II.  The oceans, warned the documentary maker, are becoming a toxic repository, and humans are to blame.

More than eight million tons of plastic eventually finds an oceanic destination.  Decomposition will take centuries.  For Attenborough, one scene from the series stood out.

In it, as snowflakes settle on the ground, a baby albatross lies dead, its stomach pierced by a plastic toothpick fed to it by its own mother, having mistaken it for healthy food.  Nearby lies plastic litter that other hungry chicks have regurgitated.

For Attenborough, plastic supplies a certain demonology for the environmental movement, a vast and urgent target that requires mass mobilisation and action.

There are fragments of nets so big they entangle the heads of fish, birds, turtles, and slowly strangle them.  Other pieces of plastic are so small that they are mistaken for food and eaten, accumulating in fishes’ stomachs, leaving them undernourished.

To firstly declare war against something deemed valuable, even indispensable, to preservation, distribution and storage over a multitude of products, to name but a few purposes, is lofty.  To also identify the casus belli against the inanimate again finds haunting resonance with other failed conflicts: the war against drugs, for instance, or that against terrorism. Will this war go the same way?

Guilty consciences are powerful motivators, and fewer guiltier than the affluent, or mildly affluent.  Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May is one, a figure who has decided to embrace the environmental cause with vote grabbing enthusiasm.  “In the UK alone,” she intoned, “the amount of single-use plastic wasted every year would fill 1,000 Royal Albert Halls.”

May’s direction is far from surprising.  There is Attenborough propelling a movement, and there are the votes that went begging in 2017.  A Tory think-tank, Bright Blue, found that many who refused to vote for her party in the last general election considered environmental initiatives key. Its polling “shows that climate change is the second highest issue younger people want senior politicians to discuss more, second only to health, and actually the top issue for 18- to 28-year-olds.”

In getting on the cart against plastic, May has attempted, unconvincingly, to reassure critics that moving Britain out of the EU would not result in a lowering of environmental standards.  Britannia will remain responsible.  Her government, she spoke with confidence at London Wetland Centre, would “leave the natural environment in a better state than we found it”.

What Sir David says, goes, though May has suggested a slow approach that would eradicate all avoidable plastic waste in the UK by 2042.  (What, then, is unavoidable?  The question remains unanswered.)  “Plastic-free” aisles are to be encouraged; taxes and charges on takeaway containers are being proposed.  None of these, it should be noted, entails Parliamentary regulation, retaining the old British approach of gradualism in action. No revolutions, please.

Supermarket chains smell climbing profits, luring the ecologically minded to shelves and fridges like willing prey.  One such outlet is Iceland, a chain that wasted little time getting on the radio and airwaves to ride the green belt.  Targets have been advertised, and it promises to remove plastic packaging from all its own labelled products over the next five years.  Even better, goes the fine print, it will enable those with less heavily laden wallets to shop and stay green.

Companies such as Proctor & Gamble, makers of Head & Shoulders Shampoo, have collaborated to produce a recycled shampoo bottle using plastic found in beaches.  This, in turn, pads out it advertising campaigns.  Use our shampoo, and feel good about yourself.

The guilty consciences were whirling and emoting on BBC Radio 4 on Tuesday as callers spoke of efforts to spend a week free of plastic, but ignobly failing before their friends, neighbours and fellow citizens, all of whom had managed to go one day further.  There were accounts about how French and German supermarkets ensure that fruits and vegetables are free, emancipated from the confines of plastic, and, it would seem, ready to salve the conscience of the green consumer.

In Britain, Attenborough’s environmental influence has become priestly for such individuals as Oswestry schoolteacher Mandy Price.  She has roped her daughter in as well in what has become a social media campaign featuring #doitfordavid, shared 125,000 times within a matter of hours.  “It has been shared on every continent apart from Antarctica,” praises Emily Davies of the Border Counties Advertiser.

This arms race of satisfying a bruised conscience has an undeniable merit in so far as it acknowledges some of the disastrous consequences of humanity’s addiction to the accessible and the easy.  Ambitious Mandy, for instance, speaks of her Facebook page “receiving photographs from lots of different people who are collecting plastic, even from holidaymakers in Cuba who have seen the posts and have recorded their own two-minute beach clean on the beautiful oceans there.”

But within such wars lie the seeds of, if not failure, then the coming of another problem.  In the British case, enduring snobbery is pointed to.  In Australia’s Northern Territory, environmental groups conceded in dismay that a ban single-use plastic bags less than 35 microns in thickness introduced in 2011 had not reduced plastic bag litter at all. On the contrary, the amount had increased.

This is a battle against human behaviour, against patterns of consumption and use in the human estate. It is, if nothing else, an attempt at behavioural adjustment and revolution.  Such a tall order, such a mission, but one that provides Mandy with rosy affirmation rather than dimming scepticism.

Transition Towns Offer Hope for the Future

In the East, it could be the COLDEST New Year’s Eve on record. Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming that our Country, but not other countries, was going to pay TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS to protect against. Bundle up!
— Donald J. Trump

Reading tweets like this from President Trump incites a mixture of humour and sadness in me.  I can’t even tell which sentiment is stronger at this point.  Since his exiting the US from the Paris Agreement last year it is difficult to take this person seriously about any utterance he makes on the environment, to include his suspicion that “global warming” is a theory advanced “by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”  The entire planet is suffering previously undocumented shifts in temperature that have been recorded since 1880 and we are facing a pollution crisis that has resulted in people in certain cities around the planet having to don face masks to leave their homes.  And just yesterday Trump announces that he “feel[s] strongly about the environment.”

According to The Ocean Cleanup, eight million tons of plastics enter the oceans every year, most of which has resulted in FIVE giant garbage patches (literally vortexes of pure garbage) floating in major bodies of water.  And I write “five” even though this number is relative given that just last summer another patch in the Pacific was found that is larger than Mexico and scientists are now grouping them together as singular, but larger, garbage patches such that now we have one spanning from off the coast of California all the way across the Pacific Ocean the the coast of Japan. Even shipping routes in smaller bodies of water, such as the North Sea.  And then there is the tragedy of marine life which is under threat from oxygen depletion, the ablation of ice sheets, the melting of massive icebergs, and the fact that coal is still the primary driver of most economies today.

First, I want you to take a look at Greg Shirah’s and Horace Mitchel’s Garbage Patch Visual Experiment, courtesy of NASA. This large expanse of garbage is avoidable and is not coincidental to this pattern.  This is a major trade route between North America and Asia and despite the movement of the waters in the oceans, this ecological disaster is exemplary of the damage we are inflicting on the planet. It is also the key to how we can stop.

Transition towns are gaining in popularity today as they seek to move populations towards self-sufficiency while reducing effects of peak oil, climate damage, and economic instability.  The transition movement has been growing since its 2005 inception in the town of Totnes (UK).  Rob Hopkins officially got the transition movement beginning the following year by prompting the community to address how it might stop contributing to the above-mentioned garbage vortex as well as other ecological and social problems through action, through change.

Everything Connects states of transition towns:

Transition towns are local communities proactively preparing for an oil-scarce future in a warming world by reducing their dependence on fossil fuels and helping mitigate climate change by re-localizing, shifting production closer to home and creating functioning communities with the idea that strong neighborhood networks will help towns to weather future energy shocks. Transition towns address the issues of peak oil, climate change and economic instability by creating a strong, connected, self-sufficient community.

Transition towns offer the ability for communities to reclaim their local economies, create an environment that nurtures entrepreneurship, rethink how we work and to allow individuals to update their skills or even retrain in order to realize this conceptual town. Transition towns have now spread to over 50 countries.  The models or approaches are potentially endless in number, the ethos of this movement is to account for ecological and economic impacts of human existence through smart gardening, architecture, and business models.

Yifeng Zhu’s wonderful thesis, “Floating City in the Pacific Garbage Patch,” documents ways in which we can change our current behaviour towards the planet from recycling nappies for “light soil” and/or earth architecture practices found in the Library Delft at the University of Technology in Delft, Netherlands.  And green architecture is just beginning to look at how we might redesign our buildings in ways that might absorb some of this “garbage”. The United Kingdom is one country that is tackling transition towns head on and has been since 2006.

In her report for the British government, “The Portas Review: An independent review into the future of our high streets,” Mary Portas writes that 97 percent of all groceries are sold through just 8,000 supermarket outlets with only 3 percent representing local business. Transition towns look at how to grow the 3 percent. Portas sums it up stating:

To really get high streets working for us I have thought about what Government – central and local – needs to do. But the public sector alone cannot create vibrant high streets, however hard they try. There is also a part that landlords and retailers must play. And, crucially, the part that all of us can play as people that meet, trade and shop in high streets around the country. Together everybody is going to have to give a little bit to help our high streets to be vibrant and successful.

While this model of the high street (in the US, “Main Street”) sounds a reverse from the development of hyper-modern and post-modern malls originating in the US during the 1960s, it’s probably because it is. Malls and the mass migration to large cities have left ghost towns throughout parts of the US. And where people have remained, we have witnessed massive economic impoverishment and lack of industry and jobs.

For every pound a local business generates, three times more income is created. Studies also show that towns with more independent businesses have more social capital, a higher quality of life, better civic organization, and fewer supermarkets. When a community wants to take responsibility for its economic future, it needs only find what its priorities are and start there. Renewal energy, food, planting, investment models?  All of these are options in the design of transition towns.

In London there are approximately forty-five transition initiatives in neighborhoods where people can influence policy, regulations regarding new businesses, green initiatives, and so forth. In Brixton in the south of London, there is the Brixton pound which you can pay by text and the local council do part of their payroll in the Brixton pound.  And Brixton is home to the country’s largest inner-city, co-operatively-owned renewable energy project on a social housing estate, with many homes powered by solar panels installed on the roofs of the poorest homes. And just a few miles to the south, Crystal Palace has a vibrant food market and community garden and a trash catcher’s carnival where everything is made from rubbish.  And in north London, Kilburn has been the site of an experimental garden being run from the Kilburn Jubilee tube line. There have been many more such garden projects underway in recent years.

Around the UK, there are many more examples of transition towns such as Bristol where the Bristol pound has a lot of support from the city with its mayor’s salary being paid in Bristol pounds. And the transitioning of the city has included the investment of £2.2 million in the Bath & West Community Energy which includes Community Share Offers.  This means that locals have the opportunity to invest relatively small sums in local energy schemes with a good return on their investment.  They have also committed to working with local businesses which translates to economic benefits of the renewable energy projects being retained locally.

And outside the of the UK, Transition Towns in forty-three countries around the world are seeing similar interests and shifts towards the local infrastructure and economy. In Norway there are 170 and in Japan there are 40, formed by people of both the left and right since ecological and local concerns are subjects that span political views.

And in the United States there are currently 163 transition initiatives that have focused on seven primary principles.  What is most interesting about initiatives I have visited is the focus on local economies in this age where being self-employed is quickly becoming the most common form of employment (currently approximately 34 percent of the total workforce, and is projected to be 50 percent by 2020).  For instance, REconomy is another UK initiative which works to network with communities to help them transform their local economies while becoming more sustainable.  What this means in practical terms is that investments and projects can stay local and outsourcing becomes a thing of the past which encourages a fair price for trade and fair salaries in return. This is clearly a push-back against globalization.

This also means that any shopping and production can be undertaken locally and any benefits to the consumer in the form of discounts or contracts extended for work, will go to the local community.  There are even more economists taking on transition in terms of future economic sustainability in an age where benefits in the UK are being slashed, putting poverty at unthinkable levels and in the US where the government’s draconian politics are inflicting harm on our nation’s poorest, these economies are vital. Detroit comes to mind as a model for how we need to organize with entrepreneurial innovation at the helm.

The reality is that the previous model of the metropolis is no longer viable for a growing number of humans. Many are moving from the larger cities to which they flocked after university and are moving back to their countryside origins, others are opting for towns where walking and bicycle are sufficient means of transport locally, and many are finding that the most unsuspecting, even underpopulated areas of the country, are perfect settings for their skill sets. The ecological rewards can only be positive in this day and age of economic fragility, job insecurity, and the ability for many of us to work from long distances with work to be submitted online. Transitioning is not only sustainable and communal, but it is proving to offer a healthier and happier way of living.

Dying Ecosystems

Earth’s ecosystems support all life, though collapsed ecosystems would be like stepping outside of the international space station not wearing a space suit. Pop! Bam! Gone!

A recent academic study about signals of ecosystem collapse throughout history fits the space suit analogy. Terrifying truth is exposed: The all-important biosphere is sending out warning signals of impending crises… worldwide. It does not seem possible that ecosystems collapse and life dies off.  That’s too hard to believe… but, what if it does collapse?

The Earth’s biodiversity is under attack. We would need to travel back over 65 million years to find rates of species loss as high as we are witnessing today.1

Biodiversity increases resilience: more species means each individual species is better able to withstand impacts. Think of decreasing biodiversity as popping out rivets from an aircraft. A few missing rivets here or there will not cause too much harm. But continuing to remove them threatens a collapse in ecosystem functioning. Forests give way to desert. Coral reefs bleach and then die.2

It’s already happening! Imagine flying in an aircraft while watching the rivets pop, one by one. At some point in time screaming overrides thinking. But, thank heavens; we’re not quite there yet.

Scientists from University College London and the University of Maryland studied 2,378 archeological sites and discovered that every society for thousands of years gave early clues to its own demise. Of course, demise happened precisely because those early warnings were ignored, while thinking: “it’s impossible, can’t happen.”

The determinate signal of upcoming demise is referred to as “flickering,” which is a change in society’s responses to perturbations resulting in a society caught in a socio-ecological trap that reinforces negative behavior that started the issue in the first instance, thus, preventing adaption.3

The formula: Every time a society flickers, losing rivets, it loses recovery time, thereby moving closer to collapse. In every case study, with nearly 100% accuracy, researchers found flickers precedent to eventual collapse.  All but 2 of 27 test cases showed statistically significant results. Every case experienced massive population growth as a result of the emergence of agriculture followed by technological advancements. Sound familiar?

Societal decline is empirically signaled by any number of drivers such as (1) changing climate, (2) declining environmental productivity, (3) disease, (4) warfare, or (5) combinations thereof. Today, we’ve got ’em all.

Rivets are popping all across the globe; e.g., the Great Barrier Reef, the largest living structure in the world, is signaling its demise like there’s no tomorrow. “Many scientists are now saying it is almost too late to save it. Strong and immediate action is required to alleviate water pollution and stop the underlying cause: climate change.”4

According to David Attenborough, the world’s most famous naturalist:

The Great Barrier Reef is in grave danger… The twin perils brought by climate change – an increase in the temperature of the ocean and in its acidity – threaten its very existence.

In point of fact, Attenborough’s remarkable new film Blue Planet 2 details the damage wreaked in the seas by climate change, plastic pollution, and overfishing. This final episode of his series lays bare shocking damage.

Compared with what was happening before the 20th century, three-times as much sediment, twice as much fertilizer and 17,000 extra kilograms of herbicide wash over the reef each year. When the coral dies, the entire ecosystem gets hit. Fish that feed on the coral, use it as shelter, or nibble on the algae die or move away. The bigger fish that feed on those fish disappear. But the cascading effects don’t stop there. Birds that eat fish lose their energy source, and island plants that thrive on bird droppings are depleted. And, of course, people who rely on reefs for food, income or shelter from waves lose their vital resource, as the final rivets pop followed by high-pitched screaming.

The signal or flicker of the Great Coral Reef is not nature’s way. It is an anomaly.  It is easy to read about it and dismiss it and go on with life, but, in large measure, that’s the problem haunting and overriding ecosystem disintegration. It’s easy to read but punishingly painful to fix. Unwavering commitment is simply not there but for a select few like David Attenborough or Sylvia Earle, the world famous marine biologist.

Alas, groundswell of public opinion is not extant for collapsing ecosystems. It’s just not there at all. Yet, one hundred million people will be glued to TVs watching Super Bowl LII on Sunday, February 4th, 2018, whilst the fate of the world’s largest and most important ecosystem rests in the hands of Attenborough, Earle and a handful of dedicated naturalists/marine biologists. Singularly, as well as unfortunately, ecosystem collapse is warranted based upon mathematical calculations alone: One hundred million (100,000,000) watch football while a handful of scientists work at fixing the world’s seas. Football’s more immediate.

Ad interim, massive environmental degradation flickers around the world, including climate change-derived crop losses for which the Federal Crop Insurance Program pays out $17.3B.

Meanwhile, heavily sprayed agrichemical pesticides and fertilizers bring about the absolutely shocking discovery that parts of the ecosystem are dropping dead right before society’s eyes, seventy-five percent (75%) insect loss detected in a major 27-yr. German study. How in the world is it possible for a 75% insect die-off, if not for chemically infested environmental degradation?

As it happens, the list of collapsing/flickering ecosystems is a very long list indeed. Here’s only a smattering:

Oceans have lost 40% of plankton production over past 50 years, threatening loss of one of the major sources of oxygen for the planet.5

If the same amount of global heat that went into top 2000m of ocean from 1955-2010 went instead into atmosphere, temps would warm by 36 C and destroy all life.6

Ocean seasons are changing as a result of too much heat and CO2… The scale of ocean warming is truly staggering with numbers so large that it is difficult for most people to comprehend.7

The ocean’s acidification rate of growth is unprecedented in Earth’s known history.8

Ocean acidification occurring at least 1oxs faster than 55 million years ago based upon paleoclimate record.9

Nearly all marine life that builds calcium carbonate show deterioration due to increasing levels of CO2 and acidification.10

A foreboding flicker haunts the Arctic Circle, as permafrost melts away as a result of anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming, awakening forgotten pathogens from the depths. A Russian team analyzed material from 125 feet below surface in permafrost. They found extremely abnormal viruses; e.g., Pithovirus Sibericum, which survived 30,000 years frozen in ice. All of which brings to mind John Carpenter’s spectacular film The Thing (1982), and likelihood that zombie pathogens are buried in super-charged-melting-like-crazy permafrost.

Seven thousand (7,000) pingos discovered in Siberia… new development in permafrost science, never reported before, there could be 100,000 explosive methane pingos extant.11

The East Siberian Arctic Shelf has reached “thaw point,” the turning point from linear to exponential release of CH4 leading to runaway global warming.12

Methane emissions in East Siberian Ice Shelves are 100xs higher than normal.13

Tibetan Plateau headwater glaciers for Lancang River (Danube of the East) down by 70%- similarly for Yellow River and Yangtze River- that flow into Mekong Delta, which feeds the entire SE Asia basin of countries.14

According to YaleEnvironment360: “As Oceans Warm, the World’s Kelp Forests Begin to Disappear,” Nov. 20,2017: “Kelp forests – luxuriant coastal ecosystems that are home to a wide variety of marine biodiversity – are being wiped out from Tasmania to California, replaced by sea urchin barrens that are nearly devoid of life.” Tasmania’s kelp forests hit by a devastating loss of 95%. In northern California, magnificent bull kelp forests along hundreds of miles of coastline have collapsed into an ecological wasteland, ocean desert.

Venice, Italy risks going on the UN’s endangered heritage site list unless it bans humongous cruise ships from the city’s lagoon, which is rapidly deteriorating into a state of utter disrepair.

Greenland’s entire surface experienced melt for the first time in scientific history.15

Greenland 2012 melt of the entire island not expected by scientific models for decades ahead, but it hit in 2012.16

The all-important Atlantic ocean conveyor belt circulation pattern, aka: Thermohaline, has already started to slow down way ahead of schedule as predicted by scientific models – a result of global warming. This has strong negative ramifications for Europe. Models claimed it wouldn’t start slowing until 22nd century. It’s already started slowing down and could be sudden, maybe within decades!16

In 2017, the Gulf of Mexico’s Dead Zone, where oxygen is so weak that fish die, is the largest ever at 8,800 square miles.17

Positive Climate Feedbacks just starting to influence the warming process, meaning the planet itself is now emitting one molecule of CO2 via positive feedback for every two molecules of CO2 emitted by human activity.18

The scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has reported that the Earth is already in the stages of the sixth mass extinction, which will see the world’s wildlife and plants die out. The research found that species, including those, which are not endangered, had reduced in number due to habitation shrinkage, hunting, pollution and climate change.

The deadly trio, or fingerprints, of mass extinctions, including global warming, ocean acidification, and anoxia or lack of ocean oxygen at current rate of change are unprecedented in Earth’s known history.19

According to YaleEnvironment360, d/d April 2017, a survey of 12,000 adults and children shows that people have lost a closeness or connection with nature. “It is increasingly normal to spend little time outside.”

In the face of people mindlessly staring at very small and/or super large screens, the planet’s ecosystems are flashing signals all the way from Patagonia to Burrow, Alaska with bells clanging, alarms blaring, sirens screeching, but not a word on Good Morning America.  Ergo, people really do not know what’s going on, which in a strange, twisted macabre fashion may be a blessing in disguise, until the final rivets pop.  Then, loud screaming will register all across the land: Off with their heads! But whose?

Postscript: For each of the past 5 mass extinctions the one common factor has been massive increase in CO2, but none of the mass extinctions in the past compare to the spike in CO2 today.20

  1. James Dyke, “The Ecosystem Canaries, Which Act as Warning Signs of Collapse”, The Guardian, August 19, 2016.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Sean S. Downey, et al, “European Neolithic Societies Showed Early Warning Signals of Population Collapse”, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 113, no. 35, March 2016.
  4. Michael Slezak, “The Great Barrier Reef: A Catastrophe Laid Bare”, The Guardian, June 6, 2016.
  5. Boris Worm, Dalhousie University.
  6. Grantham Institute.
  7. D. Laffoley, IUCN Global Marine and Polar Programme.
  8. Jane Lubchenco, NOAA.
  9. C.L. Dybas, Oxford
  10. Richard Feely, NOAA.
  11. Vladimir Romanovsky, geophysicist University of Alaska.
  12. Natalia Shakhova, Int’l Arctic Research Centre.
  13. Igor Semiletov, Int’l Arctic Research Centre.
  14. Yang Yong, Senior Chinese Geologist.
  15. Jason Box – Geologic Survey of Denmark & Greenland.
  16. Michael Mann.
  17. NOAA.
  18. Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
  19. Alex Rogers, Oxford, scientific director State of the Ocean.
  20. Jen Veron, Australian Institute of Marine Science.

Survival? Symptoms Of Breakdown

If the human species survives long enough, future historians might well marvel at what passed for ‘mainstream‘ media and politics in the early 21st century.

They will see that a UK Defence Secretary had to resign because of serious allegations of sexual misconduct; or, as he put it euphemistically, because he had ‘fallen short‘. But he did not have to resign because of the immense misery he had helped to inflict upon Yemen. Nor was he made to resign when he told MPs to stop criticising Saudi Arabia because that would be ‘unhelpful‘ while the UK government was trying to sell the human rights-abusing extremist regime in Riyadh more fighter jets and weapons. After all, the amount sold in the first half of 2017 was a mere £1.1 billion. (See our recent media alert for more on this.) Right now, the UK is complicit in a Saudi blockade of Yemen’s ports and airspace, preventing the delivery of vital medicine and food aid. 7.3 million Yemenis are already on the brink of famine, and the World Food Programme has warned of the deaths of 150,000 malnourished children in the next few months.

Meanwhile, Robert Peston, ITV political editor, and Laura Kuenssberg, BBC News political editor, have seemingly never questioned the British Prime Minister Theresa May about the UK’s shameful role in arming and supporting Yemen’s cruel tormentor. Nor have they responded when challenged about their own silence.

Future historians will also note that British newspapers, notably The Times and the ‘left-leaning’ Guardian, published several sycophantic PR pieces for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, ‘a risk-taker with a zeal for reform’. ‘Is he taking on too much too fast?’, asked a swooning Patrick Wintour, the Guardian‘s diplomatic editor. Martin Chulov, the paper’s Middle East correspondent, waxed lyrical about the Crown Prince’s ‘bold move’ in arresting senior royals, a prominent Saudi billionaire and scores of former ministers as part of a ‘corruption purge’. The dramatic action was designed to ‘consolidate power’ while bin Salman ‘attempts to reform [the] kingdom’s economy and society’. As Adam Johnson noted in a media analysis piece for Fairness in Accuracy And Reporting, the Guardian‘s coverage was akin to a ‘breathless press release.’ A follow-up article by Chulov, observed Johnson, ‘took flattering coverage to new extremes’. The ‘rush to reform’ was presented uncritically by the paper, painting the Crown Prince as a kind of populist hero; ‘a curious framing that reeks more of PR than journalism.’

Meanwhile, Richard Spencer, Middle East editor of The Times, wrote articles proclaiming, ‘Prince’s bold vision drives progress in Saudi Arabia’ and ‘It’s wrong to blame all terror on the Saudis’, featuring such propaganda bullet points as:

The Saudis are on our side, arresting militants and giving us vital intelligence.

In October 2017, The Times even ran a four-part series promoting a Saudi conference to attract investment in the head-chopping kingdom with the lure of ‘sweeping social and economic reforms’. As for any awkward questions about the brutality Saudi Arabia was inflicting on Yemen, well, they were swept away.

Historians examining media archives from this time will also observe that Gordon Brown, Chancellor of the Exchequer in Tony Blair’s government, opined that the UK had been ‘misled’ about Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction:

Top-secret US intelligence casting serious doubt over [Saddam Hussein’s] destructive capabilities was not shared with Britain.

As a result, claimed Brown, Blair was ‘duped‘ into invading Iraq. And thus ‘duped’ into shared responsibility for the deaths of around one million Iraqis.

‘Mainstream’ news journalists blandly reported Brown’s miserable excuses without demur. They failed to mention that former UN chief weapons inspector Scott Ritter had comprehensively dismissed the propaganda notion of Saddam as a threat well before the US-led invasion of March 2003. Ritter’s team had concluded that Iraq had been ‘fundamentally disarmed‘, with anything that remained being simply ‘useless sludge’ because of the limited ‘shelf-lives’ of chemical and biological weapons. This crucial information was already available by October 2002, five months before the invasion, in a handy short book that somehow ‘escaped’ the attention of the British government, including Brown, and that of a compliant corporate media that broadcast endless Western propaganda.

Nevertheless, millions of people around the world marched against the Iraq war before it began, because they did not swallow the torrent of deceits emanating from Washington and London. Brown, however, had always backed Blair to the hilt, telling the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war in 2010 that Blair took ‘the right decision for the right reasons’ and insisting that ‘everything that Mr Blair did during this period, he did properly’.

Future historians will also study the media hysteria in 2017 over ‘Russiagate‘ that focused obsessively on outraged claims of supposed pivotal Russian interference in Trump’s election as US President. But, as US investigative reporter Glenn Greenwald noted:

Inflammatory claims about Russia get mindlessly hyped by media outlets, almost always based on nothing more than evidence-free claims from government officials, only to collapse under the slightest scrutiny, because they are entirely lacking in evidence.

Greenwald is not saying that there was definitely no Russian interference. But the ‘evidence’ for decisive intervention presented thus far is unconvincing, to say the least. The crucial point is that Western corporate media have only ever given minimal coverage to major longstanding US government efforts to intervene in other countries – from propaganda campaigns, meddling in foreign elections, and all the way up to assassinations, coups and full-blown invasions. A Time magazine cover story in 1996 even boasted that US interference helped Boris Yeltsin to be re-elected as president of Russia:

Exclusive: Yanks to the Rescue. The Secret Story of How American Advisers Helped Yeltsin Win.

The historical record will also reveal, in apparent blindness and deafness to this extensive record of US criminal behaviour, that BBC News journalists based there frequently end up gushing about the greatness of ‘America’. It is a rite of passage that demonstrates their bona fides as servants of power.

It will not surprise future historians that prestigious press and broadcasting awards were given to those who reported within the limits circumscribed by established power. Such rewards were few for those who dared to expose crimes by the West or ‘our’ allies.

One of these ‘allies’, arguably the most important in the Middle East, is Israel. Earlier this month, Priti Patel resigned as Britain’s minister for international aid after it had been revealed that she had had numerous secret meetings with Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, while on a ‘family holiday’. She had also visited an Israeli military field hospital that treats Al Qaedi-affiliated fighters. Following her trip, Patel had actually wanted to send UK aid to the powerful Israeli army, even while cutting Palestinian aid to vital projects in Gaza. The episode briefly opened ‘a small, opaque window on the UK’s powerful Israel lobby’, observed Jonathan Cook. But the topic of the Israel lobby is seemingly taboo in polite British society. Laura Kuenssberg quickly deleted a tweet she had sent out quoting an unnamed senior Tory MP complaining about the ‘corrupt’ relationship that has enabled Israel to ‘buy access’ in Westminster.

Perhaps, then, it was no surprise that when the UN Special Rapporteur on the Occupied Territories published a strongly-worded report in New York on October 26, 2017, the resulting media silence was deafening. Michael Lynk, a Canadian professor of law and a human rights expert, called on the world to hold Israel accountable for fundamental violations of international law during fifty years of occupation. This was especially timely with the 100-year anniversary of the Balfour Declaration that effectively stole Palestine from the Palestinians who were ‘ethnically cleansed‘ from the land that became the state of Israel.

Lynk encouraged the international community to take ‘unified actions on an escalating basis’ to declare the occupation illegal and to demand Israel’s withdrawal. Gaza, he said, was ‘in misery’, and Israel’s continued illegal occupation of the West Bank and east Jerusalem was a ‘darkening stain’. Despite the seriousness of these charges, and their authoritative UN source, we could not find a single mention in the UK press or on the BBC News website. Scholars in the future will marvel at this stunning media obedience to Western power, obtained without visible coercion.

‘An Existential Threat to our Civilisation’

Undoubtedly, what will appall future historians most is that the urgent calamitous risks of human-induced climate change were well known, but that nothing was done to stop the looming chaos. Worse than that: powerful private business, financial and economic elites, and the governments they had essentially co-opted, forged ahead with policies that accelerated the climate crisis.

The evidence has already been unequivocal for many years. In November 2017, a comprehensive review of climate science by thirteen US federal agencies concluded in a 477-page report that evidence of global warming was ‘stronger than ever’. They said that it was ‘extremely likely’ – meaning with 95 to 100% certainty – that global warming is human-induced, mostly from carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas.

One climate scientist said:

A lot of what we’ve been learning over the last four years suggests the possibility that things may have been more serious than we think.

The language was couched in typical scientific caution. But the horror at what was unfolding was surely not far from the surface of academics’ minds.

And yet, in a further sign of the short-term insanity that drives state and corporate policy, governments continued to channel huge sums of public money into planet-killing industries. European states, including the UK government, gave more than €112bn (£99bn) every year in subsidies to support fossil fuel production and consumption.

In 2016, gas companies spent €104m in intensive lobbying campaigns to try to encourage European policymakers to accept the myth that natural gas is a ‘clean fuel’ in an attempt to ‘lock in’ fossil fuels for decades to come. Moreover, fossil fuel companies lobbied hard behind the scenes of the Paris climate talks, as well as follow-up negotiations, to manipulate outcomes in their private favour. After all, cynical corporate madness has no boundaries when profits are the overriding concern. Absurdly, the text of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change did not even include the words ‘fossil fuels‘. Scientists warned that fossil fuel burning is set to hit a record high in 2017.

Meanwhile, it has been reported that 2017 is set to be one of the top three hottest years on record, according to the World Meteorological Organization. The WMO also noted that atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide have ‘surged at unprecedented speed’ to the highest level in 800,000 years

The signs of ecological breakdown are all around us. Last month, a new study revealed that the abundance of flying insects has plunged by three-quarters over the past 25 years. The results had ‘shocked scientists’. This matters hugely because flying insects are, of course, a vital component of a healthy ecosystem upon which we are crucially dependent for food, water and oxygen. Robert Hunziker observes succinctly that this ecosystem, ‘the quintessential essence of life on our planet’, is breaking down. Our life support system is being destroyed.

One of the many symptoms of this breakdown that is likely to overwhelm human society is mass migration as a result of climate change. Tens of millions of people will be forced to move because of climate disruption in the next decade alone. This flood of human refugees will make the numbers of those who fled the Syrian conflict into Europe look like a trickle.

Sir David King, the former chief scientific adviser to the UK government, said:

What we are talking about here is an existential threat to our civilisation in the longer term. In the short term, it carries all sorts of risks as well and it requires a human response on a scale that has never been achieved before.

However, if governments really were motivated to protect the public, as they always claim when amplifying the threat of terrorism, they would have already announced a halt to fossil fuels and a massive conversion to renewable energy. A landmark study recently showed that global pollution kills nine million people a year and threatens the ‘survival of human societies’. If terrorism was killing nine million people every year, and the very survival of human society was threatened, the corporate media and politicians would be reacting very differently. But because it’s global pollution, merely an economic ‘externality’, private power can continue on its quest for dominance and profits.

The situation now is truly desperate. We are literally talking about the survival of the human species. There will be those who declare, either with black humour or a morally-suspect flippancy, that ‘the planet would be better off without us’. But we surely cannot so casually dismiss the lives and prospects of literally billions of people alive today and their descendants too.

Government policies are driven primarily by short-term political gain and corporate power, so there needs to be a massive public demand for control of the economy towards sustainability. The alternative is no human future. But just at a time when public resistance and radical action are most needed, social media networks owned and controlled by huge corporations are suppressing dissent. A major part of the struggle for human survival, then, will be to overcome the unaccountable media corporations and tech giants that are attempting to define what is deemed ‘acceptable’ news and commentary.

People Act Where US Fails On Climate

WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 10: Protesters march during a demonstration against the Dakota Access Pipeline on March 10, 2017 in Washington, DC. Thousands of protesters and members of Native nations marched in Washington DC to oppose the construction of the proposed 1,172 Dakota Access Pipeline that runs within a half-mile of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The climate crisis is upon us. It seems that every report on climate conditions has one thing in common: things are worse than predicted. The World Meteorological Report from the end of October shows that Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) are rising at a rapid rate and have passed 400 parts per million. According to Dr. Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, “the changes we’re making today are occurring in 100 years, whereas in nature they occur in 10,000 years.”

The United States is experiencing a wide range of climate impacts from major hurricanes in the South to unprecedented numbers of wildfires in the West to crop-destroying drought in the Mid-West. In October, the General Accounting Office reported that the US has spent over $350 billion in the last decade on disaster relief and crop insurance, not counting this year’s hurricanes. These costs will continue and rise.

We are past the time to make a major commitment to the transformation we need to mitigate and adapt to the climate crisis. Imagine the benefits that such a commitment would have in creating a cleaner environment, better health and more jobs and, if structured in a way that is democratized and benefits the public, in ending environmental racism and economic injustice.

Climate talks in Germany

The 23rd session of climate talks is taking place right now in Bonn, Germany. The United States formally withdrew from its commitment to the Paris climate treaty, but delegations of people from the US are in attendance to show their commitment to addressing the climate crisis. A group of organizations, such as 350.org and Indigenous Environmental Network, presented their climate platform as “the people’s delegation.” They are calling for a just transition to a fossil-free future and an end to market schemes to offset carbon use.

The people are expressing their demands for more action on the climate in multiple protests around the COP23. Ahead of the climate talks, on Saturday, November 4, tens of thousands of people marched in Bonn to demand an end to fossil fuels. The march kicked off a series of direct actions and alternative events to take place during the talks. On November 8, the one year anniversary of the election of Donald Trump, activists organized a “Climate Genocide” day of action in Bonn and around the world. On Saturday, November 11, thousands marched in Bonn again to protest the use of nuclear energy. The talks conclude on November 17.

The Trump Administration sent a delegation to the climate talks with the goal of protecting the fossil fuel industry. John Cushman of Inside Climate News writes: “The U.S. is straddling a climate credibility gap, with the Trump administration’s policies on one side of an abyss and what the government’s own scientists know about climate change with increasing certainty on the other.”

100% renewable energy is necessary and possible

If there is to be any possibility of mitigating the climate crisis, then action must be taken immediately to end the use of dirty energy, otherwise lower carbon emissions and sequester carbon. While some are saying that we have 18 years before we hit the limits of our “carbon budget,” scientists Stephen Davis and Robert Socolow report that when all sources of carbon and carbon commitments are taken into account, we will hit the limit in 2018.

Organizations and government agencies have pointed out that the Paris climate treaty goals are not enough to mitigate the climate crisis. On Tuesday, the United Nations Environment Program released a report calling for faster and more rapid cuts in emissions than are outlined in the treaty. This can be achieved by closing coal plants and moving to renewable sources, improving energy efficiency, protecting and planting more forests and changing agricultural practices to sequester carbon in soil.

The good news is that it is possible to reduce carbon quickly, and it will lower energy costs, improve health and create jobs. A study released at the COP23 shows that we can move to zero carbon energy worldwide by 2050. This would be largely based on solar energy with additional energy from wind, water and a small percentage from biomass, although biomass is not considered to be a sustainable source of energy.

David Schwartzman reminds us that although we have the knowledge and resources to move quickly to 100% renewable energy, two major obstacles are the Military Industrial Complex and capitalism. He writes: “All is contingent on the growing strength of multi-dimensional, transnational class struggle, [and] on the convergence of movements for climate, energy, environmental justice and for peace and demilitarization.”

Reaching our goal

Just as is necessary for other struggles, achieving our goals of mitigating the climate crisis in a way that is sustainable and equitable will require the dual track approach of resistance and constructive programs. There are signs that this work is being done in the North America.

Resistance to new fossil fuel infrastructure is working. This summer, Enbridge stopped its North East Direct gas pipeline project in New England. This fall, TransCanada withdrew its Energy East Pipeline project, which would have transported “1.1 million barrels of oil per day from Alberta, Saskatchewan and North Dakota across the country through a 4,500-kilometre route that would end at a terminal in Saint John, New Brunswick.”

There is strong opposition to pipelines throughout the United States, from the ongoing fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline to the Bayou Pipeline to multiple pipelines in MichiganPennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina. And efforts continue to stop the first fracked gas refinery and export terminal on the East Coast as it nears completion. The terminal being built by Virginia-based Dominion Energy in the Cove Point neighborhood of Maryland (the first to be built in such a densely-populated area) will drive fracking in the Utica and Marcellus shales and raise gas prices in the US.

Pipeline companies report that their biggest problem is opposition to their projects. It should come as no surprise that the industry is fighting back. This was very obvious in the #NoDAPL protests at Standing Rock. Chase Iron Eyes, who is being prosecuted for inciting a riot against the Dakota Access Pipeline, will be using a necessity defense to demonstrate that he was acting out of necessity to protect water his family relies on.

This week, pipeline protesters in Massachusetts were met with police dogs and stun guns. Mark Hand recently discovered that the industry is “in the ‘early stages’ of putting together a campaign to counter opposition to fracking and pipelines,” including creating grassroots groups.

Some communities are protecting themselves by banning projects. South Portland, Maine has spent over $1 million to defend its pipeline ban. Ohio activists recently won a court victory allowing them to vote on local fracking bans. Others are taking on the banks that fund the projects. On Monday, more than 200 people painted a giant mural on the street in front of Wells Fargo, creating an effective street blockade in the process.

Food is a large contributor to carbon emissions through animal cultivation for meat, destroying forests for crops and transportation of food over long distances. The UN urged this week that we move to a meat-free and dairy-free diet for the climate (and it would also be good for our health).

Our food system could contribute to the solution. Organic farming practices can sequester large amounts of carbon in the soil. On top of that, the large food co-operative, Organic Valley, announced this week that it is committed to using 100% renewable energy by 2019, starting with community solar projects. Rooftop solar is “creating well-paying jobs at a rate that’s 17 times faster than the total U.S. economy.”

manipadma2-2-640x381 (1)Our climate imperative

If we are to have a livable future, we must act rapidly. Failure to act will have devastating impacts. Studies suggest that there may be as many as one billion climate refugees by 2050. Climate change is contributing to migration into cities and poverty, causing food insecurity. People in North America are not immune to this, as recent hurricanes, wildfires and droughts reveal.

The climate crisis is also bad for our health and will cause an additional 250,000 deaths per year.  In addition to direct effects, such as heat stroke, injuries from catastrophes and longer allergy seasons and mental health impacts from stress, the climate crisis is also increasing vector-borne diseases.

Every crisis offers an opportunity for radical positive transformation. As we act to address the climate crisis, let’s do it in ways that change systems so they are equitable, just and non-discriminatory. Our actions to mitigate and adapt to climate change can work to democratize the economy through cooperatives, energy creation by individuals on their rooftops and land, public banks and gift economies, to improve our health through clean water, air, organic foods and low cost public transit, and to bring peace to the world by ending US imperialism.

It can be so, if we act with intention to make it that way.

The Ecosystem is Breaking Down

The ecosystem is the quintessential essence of life on our planet, and this crucial life system is showing signs of breaking down. It is likely a more pressing problem than climate change. Time will tell but time is short.

The ecosystem consists of all living organisms that interact with nonliving components like air, water, and soil contained within the biosphere, which extends from the bottom of the oceans to the top of the mountains. Although unannounced by authorities or professional orgs, it is already becoming evident that the ecosystem is breaking down. Alas, it’s our only ecosystem.

The evidence is too prevalent to ignore. For example, when (1) abundance of insects plummets by 75%, and (2) tropical rainforests mysteriously emit CO2, and (3) Mt Everest’s snow is too toxic to pass EPA drinking water standards, and (4) squid at 1,000 fathoms carry toxic furniture protection chemicals, and (5) ocean oxygen production plummets, then something is wrong, horribly, horribly, horribly wrong. But, nobody has announced it. Global warming gets all of the attention.

All of which begs the question: What does it take to determine when the ecosystem is losing it? After all, it surely looks like it is doing exactly that. For example, the loss of 75% of insect abundance in a landmark study in Germany (referenced in prior articles) released only last month is enough, all by itself, to indicate an extinction event is in the works. That is a monstrous wake up call.

Equally horrifying, recent studies show tropical rainforests emitting more CO2 than automobiles, which is kinda like getting hit repeatedly in the head with a wooden two-by-four, a deadly serious wake up call that says the planet is breaking down.

As for the rainforest research: A 12-year study claims the world’s tropical rainforests have reversed gears. Instead of absorbing CO2, as they have forever and ever and ever, serving as a carbon sink, they are emitting CO2 into the atmosphere. It’s not supposed to work that way.1

“The forest is not doing what we thought it was doing,” said Alessandro Baccini, who is one of the lead authors of the research team from Woods Hole Research Center and Boston University. “As always, trees are removing carbon from the atmosphere, but the volume of the forest is no longer enough to compensate for the losses. The region is not a sink any more.”2  The “region is not a sink any more” is almost impossible to accept. How can it be true?

Rainforests competing head-to-head with automobiles for most excessive CO2 emissions is a real shocker, a haunting sign of ill-fated climate change. Who would’ve ever thought? It seems as improbable as the Sun shutting down.  It is a spine-chilling signal that the ecosystem is really, truly in trouble. What to do?

Not only is the ecosystem exhibiting undue stress, human health is under attack like never before. Using a baseline year of 1975, observed case counts of cancer are up 76.6% to 193%, depending upon race. As such, Wall Street has discovered a new growth vehicle in biotechnology companies searching for answers to cancer. Nearly 50 new cancer cases are diagnosed in the time it takes (15 minutes) to read this article. These days everybody knows somebody who has been stricken. It’s the leading cause of death worldwide, and one can only wonder and speculate that ecosystem carnage and the cancer epidemic seem to go hand in hand. Ergo, whatever’s poisoning the ecosystem is the most important issue of the 21st century.

The following quote from Julian Cribb’s Surviving the 21st Century, likely tells the story:

The evidence that we ourselves— along with our descendants, potentially for the rest of history— are at risk from the toxic flood we have unleashed is piling up in literally tens of thousands of peer-reviewed scientific research reports. Despite this mass of evidence, the public in most countries is only dimly aware, or even largely unaware of what is being done to them. The reason is twofold: First, most of these reports are buried in scientific journals, written in the arcane and inaccessible language used by specialists. The pubic may hear a little about certain chemical categories of concern, like pesticides and food additives, or the ‘dirty dozen’ (Stockholm Convention 2013) industrial super-poisons, or ‘air pollution’ in general. However, these represent only a scant few pixels in a much larger image now amassing in the scientific literature of tens of thousands of potentially harmful substances which are disseminating worldwide. Second, the proportion of chemicals which have been well-tested for human safety is quite small…3

In short, humanity is poisoning itself with a massive flood of chemicals all across the world, dripping wet with toxicity. It’s little wonder the ecosystem is breaking down under the venom of peacetime chemical warfare. Is it any wonder that insect abundance suddenly plummets by 75%, which is defined, by any book, as an extinction event? People need insects a lot more than insects need people. Eighty percent (80%) of all the world’s plants are angiosperms, dependent upon pollination. No plants, no survival.

According to a United Nations study, most chemicals are never screened for health concerns, and WWF Global claims only 14% of chemicals used in largest volume have minimum data available for initial safety assessments. Yet, the FDA carefully scrutinizes drugs that are used to combat malfunctions like cancer, like Parkinson’s that may be caused by failure to regulate chemicals in the environment in the first place. After all, the chemicals become part of the living ecosystem!

Over time as the public wises up, it’ll be surprising if people do not come to arms over the failure of government to protect life, its ultimate responsibility. The ecosystem breaking down is too serious to avoid responsibility. It does not happen on its own.

As it happens, the deadly combination of global warming, which may be beyond control, and toxic chemicals, which are all over creation in all quarters, destroys the ecosystem in a slow death march by a thousand cuts, until, similar to Rachel Carson’s idyllic American town in her landmark book Silent Spring, it suddenly experiences a “strange blight,” leaving a swathe of inexplicable illnesses, birds found dead, farm animals unable to reproduce, and fruitless apple trees, an eerie lifelessness, yet unannounced, suddenly happening out of the blue. Like General Custer’s troops, caught flat-footed, it’s over so quickly.

Ignorance of the breadth and depth and mass of our toxic chemical planet will be no excuse when Rachel Carson’s “strange blight” suddenly hits hard because ignorance is never an excuse, especially with life and death at hand.

  1. A. Baccini, et al, “Tropical Forests are a Net Carbon Source Based on Aboveground Measurements of Gain and Loss”, Science, Vol. 358, Issue 6360, pp. 230-234, October 13, 2017.
  2. Jonathan Watts, Alarm as Study Reveals World’s Tropical Forests are Huge Carbon Emission Source, The Guardian, September 28, 2017.
  3. Julian Cribb, Surviving the 21st Century, Springer Int’l Publishing, Switzerland 2017, p. 108.

The Buck Stops Here

I have no children; and given that I’m a happily childless pensioner now, that’s not likely to change. My childlessness was not especially through conscious choice (initially at least), illness, tragedy or anything else. It just worked out like that. Many people – especially women – instantly show some sort of sadness when they learn this fact, as though just discovering I have some horrible disability. But I don’t feel in the least unfortunate. Indeed, I not only consider myself lucky to have accidently achieved this outcome, I feel, with every passing day, a slowly growing sense of victory: I beat the system.

In her most excellent book, “Democracy in Chains”, Nancy MacLean gives part of the explanation for this feeling. In her concluding chapter, “Get Ready”, she writes,

As [economic inequality] has swelled in the United States to a degree not seen in any comparable nation, intergenerational mobility – the ability of young people to move up the economic ladder to achieve a social and financial status better than that of their parents, which was once the source of America’s greatest promise and pride – has plummeted below that of all peer nations, with the possible exception of the United Kingdom.1

When I was a teenager, back in the sixties, my generation felt like we had the world at our feet. Finding work when you left school was as easy as falling off a log. You could start one job, walk out the same day if you wanted to and start a different one the following day, no problem. People didn’t have great riches, but they had enough to meet their essential costs quite easily, with some left over to enjoy themselves. Life was good. Old people would frequently shake their heads at our cocksure arrogance and remark that we didn’t know we were born, and smile wistfully at the amazing opportunities we had at our fingertips.

Today, I don’t know a single old person who feels anything but pity for the young. In just one generation the great and trusted leaders who manage and control every aspect of our lives have combined and contrived to turn a world of real hope and promise for the young into one of fear and insecurity. In just one generation, all of the marvellous new technologies, that were going to make everyone happy and free, have been used to achieve the exact opposite.

At the heart of this is the vile economic model, widely known as capitalism, much beloved by our great and trusted leaders because it makes them obscenely wealthy. And at the heart of capitalism is a ridiculous, stupid, concept — a dogma of permanent growth. The capitalists either believe that infinite growth out of finite resources is somehow achievable, or they simply don’t care that it isn’t achievable. The only thing that matters to these people is quick and maximum profit, no matter the consequences in human and animal lives, and environmental catastrophe. That can all be someone else’s problem.

Our great and trusted leaders actively and viciously peddle and promote this catastrophic dogma with all the wide-eyed zeal and foamy-mouthed fanaticism of religious fundamentalists. Nothing must be allowed to interfere with or oppose the holy faith of capitalism.

If endless growth is the malignant tumour at the heart of capitalism, the worst manifestation of endless growth, by far, is the endless growth of the human population. A casual glance at the human population clock is instructive. This number, increasing at roughly two per second, is not the rate of human births, as some might assume; it’s the rate at which human births are exceeding human deaths.

Compare this with the fact that, according to the World Wildlife Fund, for example, other living species are being wiped out at a rate somewhere between 200 and 10,000 species every year. The stats are vague for the simple reason that the total number of species in the world is not exactly known; but many species have been accurately counted and measured over time, and many are known to be sharply declining, so much so that it’s now widely accepted that we are living through the sixth mass extinction of species, the most calamitous environmental event since dinosaurs disappeared. 90% of big predators have recently disappeared from the seas – thanks to overfishing, plastics and other garbage polluting the seas, and now nuclear poisoning pouring daily into the Pacific from Fukushima. Manmade wars obviously kill tens of thousands of people every year and spread misery and desperation to millions of others, but there’s also the environmental destruction to consider – from the eradication of Vietnam’s rain forests to hundreds of square miles of earth poisoned for billions of years with depleted uranium. Human beings are behaving like a parasitic plague all around the world, and most other living things are suffering to the point of extinction because of the insatiable greed of our great trusted leaders.

Helping to fuel this greed, indeed, providing the most efficient and effective fuel, is human overpopulation. Continual growth of human beings means a continually growing supply of capitalism’s two most important drivers: slave labour and consumers.

Human overpopulation in the poorest countries provides a continual source of desperate people who have no choice but to sell their labour for whatever pittance they can obtain. In India, Pakistan, the Far East and Africa, for example, millions of people suffer the most unimaginable hardships just to find enough to eat, and safe shelter to survive one more night. This is the vast, bottomless pool of exploitable labour from which the most despicable and unscrupulous human beings amass vast fortunes and wallow in obscene splendour.

In the so-called “first world”, human overpopulation takes a different form. Whilst there are always self-righteous howls of indignation at any suggestion of overpopulation, citing stable or even negative birth-rates here, there’s no escaping the fact that the relatively small number of first world humans consume far more of the planet’s resources than all the rest of the planet put together. According to the Worldwatch Institute:

The 12 percent of the world’s population that lives in North America and Western Europe accounts for 60 percent of private consumption spending, while the one-third living in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa accounts for only 3.2 percent.

Other variations of the same point show that if everyone on Earth consumed resources like an average US citizen, for example, 4.1 Earth-sized planets would be needed to supply their needs. And the US isn’t even the worst consumer!

Factors of Overproduction

The belief that we must reproduce ourselves is, of course, a natural instinct, as it is for all living things. But as far as humans are concerned, it’s also the product of conditioning – brainwashing even. Indeed, for us the desire to reproduce is probably more a product of brainwashing than it is natural instinct. After all, it’s now an easy matter to enjoy the pleasures of sex without having to consider the implications of parenthood, so having children today is therefore more a matter of conscious choice than accidental chance. So what factors influence that conscious choice?

Probably the most powerful factor of all is peer pressure, the influence of immediate family and close friends. Many young adults are routinely subjected to the desires of their families and friends for them firstly to form a close bond with a mate, and then to start producing babies. Although there’s not much peer pressure to produce lots of babies, there’s seldom much encouragement not to. And there’s also sometimes a sort of desirable inference that someone who has a lot of children is particularly virile – in the case of men – or fertile in the case of women, an implication which helps to encourage creating large families.

Yet another factor that encourages some young people to produce babies – especially those who live in the lowest income areas and who often struggle to find useful and rewarding work – is the economic incentive to produce children.

When I lived in Africa I remember having a conversation with an African who, when talking about his children, proudly informed me that he had seven daughters and no sons. In parts of Africa having daughters is seen as particularly advantageous, because when they get married husbands’ families must pay the wives’ fathers, usually in cattle, in exchange for their daughters. The chap I was talking with was looking forward to the wealth that seven daughters would generate, without him having to spend anything on sons. No matter that he didn’t have enough land to support all the cattle; what did matter was the number of animals he had, rather than their condition.

But here in the supposedly advanced first world too, children have long been seen by poorer families as income-generators. From the days when factory and mine owners, for example, preferred employing children because they were cheaper to use than adults, to today where mothers with few good employment options will be paid by the state just enough income to encourage them to keep producing babies, children have been used as income providers for parents who would otherwise struggle to survive. I know a young woman who hasn’t done paid work for many years, but has produced a new baby every eighteen months or so for the last fifteen or sixteen years. As long as she keeps producing children, the state will keep paying her.

Yet another factor to take into account is the powerful influence of religion. Roman Catholics are possibly the most well-indoctrinated as far as encouraging large families is concerned. Once again this is especially relevant in some of the poorer parts of the world where the influence of Catholicism is especially significant – Latin America, for example. Contraception has always been officially forbidden in Catholic countries, and abortion is treated as a cardinal sin. But the Catholics are not entirely alone in this attitude, as procreation is strongly encouraged to various levels of fanaticism by all religions; and the anti-abortion movement relies very heavily on religion for providing the ethical justification for their frequently vicious campaigns. No matter that religion, all religion, has absolutely no empirical evidence to support their spiritual claims, and therefore no grounds to claim any rights to ethical guidance in the matter.

And finally we shouldn’t forget to consider big business. Big business is wholly dependent on permanent growth. “Growth” is the very watchword of capitalism, the single most important measuring-stick for the supposed health of an economy. Suggesting that growth is not a good thing, that it’s actually harmful and destroying our planet before our very eyes, is tantamount to heresy. But permanent growth can only be achieved by permanently increasing the number of consumers. Given that big business has never let long-term considerations interfere with its short-term profits, it’s unsurprising that big business does absolutely nothing to correct the obvious flaw in its central argument — that infinite growth from finite resources is obviously impossible. So human beings are strongly encouraged by all our great trusted leaders to continually multiply their numbers, so that big business may continue to grow and grow, and grow.

Ending Exceptionalism

There is a widely held belief amongst most human beings — once again the product of brainwashing — that humans are the most important species on Earth, that we’re somehow exceptional. Furthermore, that humans living in the most powerful country on the planet are even more exceptional than other humans. One of the most obvious manifestations of this view is the so-called “pro-life” movement, usually meaning pro human life in general, and pro exceptional human life in particular. (But wiping out tens of thousands of non-exceptional human lives every year through illegal wars in far-flung corners of the world doesn’t usually trouble the pro-lifers overmuch.) Women who choose to have abortions should not be seen as shameful criminals, as the pro-lifers desire, but as people who, at the very least, have every right to do what they want with their own bodies, and who should even be acclaimed for limiting the growth of the human population. One glance at the human population clock is startling proof that the voluntary removal of a human foetus is no great loss to the planet.

Human beings are not exceptional. If anything at all they should be using the unique abilities they admittedly have to help nurture and care for our fragile life-sustaining planet, instead of recklessly destroying it.

Many people say there’s no such thing as human overpopulation, and get very angry at any suggestion that humans should limit the size of their families. Although it’s very easy to show the direct correlation between human overpopulation and the destruction of our planet, as I’ve indicated above, there’s absolutely no evidence to suggest otherwise, that humans are somehow beneficial to the planet. Earth managed pretty well for billions of years without human beings at all — naturally occurring catastrophes excepted — so what is the case for suggesting that humans are in any way more advantageous or beneficial than any other species? So far there is no case. What case there is, and it’s a very convincing case, argues the exact opposite.

Stopping the clock

Therefore the condition of childlessness in which I have accidently found myself is definitely not something I regret, or which troubles me one jot. It’s something that quite cheers me up whenever some new piece of stupidity, hypocrisy, wanton destruction or abominable cruelty by my fellow humans is revealed in what passes for mainstream “news”: I know that no progeny of mine will ever have to suffer the worsening condition of our planet; and I know that I have done the very best thing that can be done to save it — I’ve not produced any more human beings.

The vast majority of us, the 99 percenters, are no more than tools of the 1%, the essential providers of their obscene wealth; and we are the single most important cause of the rapidly increasing destruction of our planet, the drivers of its sixth mass extinction. Whilst our numbers keep on growing that situation will never improve. Yet at our fingertips or, to be more accurate, at deeper parts of our anatomy, we have the solution. We don’t need MPs or congressmen, generals, popes, presidents or any other kind of leader. We each have the power to stop the craziness, to reverse our planet’s desperate struggle for survival. All we need to do is stop having children or, at the very least, to ensure we have no more than two.

The Chinese knew this decades ago, and produced their one-child policy. It was poorly managed and condemned all around the world. But they were basically right. Growth, in terms of more material production, the cornerstone of capitalism, must end.

The global situation is now so desperately serious that China’s one-child policy should be universally encouraged. The human overpopulation clock must be brought to a stop, and then reversed. The numbers of human beings must be brought down, steadily reducing them until such time as species extinction because of human overpopulation ends, and we no longer need four Earth-sized planets to sustain us. At that time, and only at that time, could humans safely raise the one-child policy to a two-child policy – something which would keep the numbers of human beings in harmony with the rest of life on Earth.

This does not need the intervention of governments. There must be no laws demanding birth control. It simply needs education. We have direct control of our own bodies. The buck truly stops with each and every one of us. We each have the power to control the future of our planet, simply by controlling the number of children we have.

  1. Democracy in Chains, Nancy MacLean, p. 226.