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It’s scripted: a tragedy whose end is embedded in its beginnings, an unfolding logic whose conclusion is the inevitable result of its premises.
It’s simple. And obvious. We find ourselves in the midst of the most rapid mass extinction in Earth’s history; we have the power to all-but end life on Earth. We can do so with nuclear weapons, today, in Iran, or simply by turning the ignition switch on our automobiles and gliding over paved surfaces where nothing can live. A little more carbon dioxide, just a little, will tip the scale — unleashing our potential for matching the greatest mass extinction ever — the one called The Great Dying.
Science has given us until roughly 2012 to take radical action to change the course we’re on. In the next six years, they tell us, we will determine the fate of the Earth.
… For all that the Third World is destined to suffer the harshest of the coming blows, it may well be in the non-industrialized areas that any non-fascistic reorganization of society is possible. Cuba’s response to its national peak oil crisis is a case in point.
Not only are the Third World nations more susceptible to peoples’ struggles, but the fragmentation they will undergo under the conditions on the horizon, combined with the relative closeness of the peasantry to the land in those places, lends itself more readily to the kind of small, local, sustainable solutions that appear to be the only solutions that will be possible or desirable.
That is, if we manage, somehow, to avoid a nuclear World War lll, if global warming and desertification don’t turn the land into an oven, if local ecosystems can be sustained, or only partially collapse; if the aquifers aren’t depleted; and if the rivers and lakes don’t disappear with the glaciers…
Juan Santos is editor of Mexica Tlahtolli, a Chicano-Native American newspaper in Los Angeles.
(31 July 2006)
Peak oil is mentioned as one of the components of the potential apocalypse.
Converging Ecological Crises: Are We Up To The Challenges?
G.F. Hartman, Opinion 250 (“The Voice of the North”)
There is a very substantial volume of highly credible writing, for anyone that wants to see it, that warns us that humankind has only a few decades left in which to ‘get it right’. We face demographic challenges and global ecological disruptions on scales like nothing that people have seen before. This is no longer news; the information is out there. In spite of this, most people in North America are still ‘sleepwalking’ into the future.
…If there was such a thing as a report card on humanity, at the beginning of the 21st century, the failing grades would outnumber the passes and pluses. Ecological and demographic dangers are not offset by the positive and encouraging things that are occurring.
…What is crucial to understand and face up to, is the fact that we are not confronted by a single issue such as climate change, depletion of oil, or loss of fish resources, serious as each of these may be. We are, in reality, confronted by an inter-connected complex of environmental and resource loss and/or breakdown challenges that will shape the societies of the future. The elements within the list of challenges are formidable:
* We add about 70 million people per year to an already overloaded planet. ..
* We are at, or past, ‘peak oil’. The major reserves have been located and we are now using them up. There are no comparable and flexible substitutes for this energy bonanza, laid down over millions of years but consumed in only one or two centuries. The sub-urban sprawl of North America, the long-range transport of food, the operation of our great sky-scrapers, and life built around the automobile are all in peril. Read J.H. Kunstler’s “The Long Emergency”. The influence of declining oil supplies will affect nations, worldwide. In Canada, declining supplies and increasing costs of oil and gas will be critical to people living in colder regions, wherever these may be as climate warms up.
* Climate is changing with a powerful array of potential impacts on water availability, forests, fishes, infrastructure, health conditions, and livability of many regions without cheap energy. …
* In association with increased CO2, ocean pH is decreasing, i.e., acidity is increasing. …
* Freshwater resources of the world, and of many parts of B.C., are dangerously over-taxed with use, or are being degraded….
* Major fisheries of the world are under assault. …
* Since the dawn of agriculture we have lost about half of the earth’s natural forest….
* Our perennial demand for economic growth, which invariably results in conversion of ecosystems to human use, reduces biodiversity which ultimately affects the stability of these systems (See www.countercurrents.org/cc-dawe030406.htm)
… On the ‘plus side’, there are important positive elements:
* Awareness of our plight is increasing, and hundreds of thousands of individuals and groups are actively involved in dealing with environmental issues.
* Means and scale of communication have increased. Television and the internet, if used responsibly, have wonderful potential to inform and connect people. The David Suzuki shows have increased awareness among tens of thousands of viewers.
* The powerful documentary movie and the book, “An Inconvenient Truth” by Vice- President Al Gore has reached million of North Americans.
…The convergence of ecological crises demands that we go further than trying to deal singly with climate change, or depletion of oil, or some other issue. It demands that we move to ‘steady state’ economies and populations, not those growing like mad. It demands, also, human behavior in which we are part of the system, not an increasingly dominant element within it. Politically and socio-economically, we will have to make a quantum shift. The challenge of doing so, and having a vision-driven role on the earth, beyond growth and profit, may be one of the most difficult that we have faced, or will have to face, as a species….
Born in Fraser Lake, Dr. Gordon Hartman is known the world over as one of the most knowledgeable scientists on any fishery. He has a Ph.D. in zoology, was the scientist in charge of a major fish-forestry research project, held senior positions in the provincial government and the Yukon government; He has taught at the university level for about six years (University of Guelph and Addis Ababa University) and spent three years in Africa with CIDA for two, and FAO for one. He thinks he has written about 80 publications, scientific, or managerial, or philosophical.
(31 July 2006)
Signs Of The Times
Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman, Znet
Using a statistical lens, two just-released books shed light on the ravages of corporate globalization.
Vital Signs 2006-2007 from the Washington, D.C.-based WorldWatch Institute contends that “the health of the global economy and the stability of nations will be shaped by our ability to address the huge imbalances in natural resource systems.”
The Least Developed Countries Report 2006, issued by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), argues that while there have been relatively higher rates of economic growth in the Least Developed Countries (LDCs, a UN-designated group of the world’s poorest 50 countries), it is “not translating into poverty reduction and improved human well-being.”
Here are 20 factoids from the reports, the first 10 from Vital Signs, the second 10 from The Least Developed Countries Report:
1. Global oil consumption in 2004 was 3.7 billion tons, about eight times more than in 1950. Coal consumption was two-and-a-half times more than 1950, and natural gas more than 15 times greater.
2. 2005 was the warmest year ever recorded on Earth. Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide reached 379.6 parts per million for 2005.
3. Thanks largely to Hurricane Katrina, weather-related disasters caused more than $200 billion in damage, nearly double the previous record.
Three of the 10 strongest hurricanes ever recorded occurred in 2005.
4. More money was spent on advertising in 2005 than ever before — $570 billion, about half of which was spent in the United States. The global figure is 11 times more than was spent in 1950, measured in constant dollars.
5. More than 37 million people have died from AIDS over the last two decades.
Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter, . Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational Monitor, . Mokhiber and Weissman are co-authors of On the Rampage: Corporate Predators and the Destruction of Democracy (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press).
(31 July 2006)